Some present biofuels (e.g. ethanol, biodiesel) as the great cure for our energy and environmental problems. After all, if we grow our fuel, we don’t have to import it from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela. Additionally, whatever CO2 is released when the fuel is burned was originally removed from the atmosphere when the plant grew, so burning the fuel doesn’t contribute to global warming.
In its most recent report on biofuels, the Paris-based OECD [The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] says the use of fuels such as ethanol made from corn, palm oil and other sources using crops as raw material amounts to “a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal.”
“When acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall impact of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel,” reports the group, which is hardly a shill for the oil industry.
The organization says governments “should cease to create new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out,” avoiding technologies that compete for land use with fuel production. But it noted this would not be easy since politicians have a vested interest in backing increased biofuel use.
In the U.S., you can connect the dots between increasing mandates for ethanol use and the fact that the first stop on the presidential campaign calendar is the corn state of Iowa.
In the rush to develop these alternative fuels, forests in Asia have been burned to clear land for palm oil, and large swaths of the Amazon rain forest are being stripped of diverse vegetation for soy and sugar plantations used to produce the raw material for making ethanol.
Grace and Peace