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Recent studies point out that the cost to grow and produce biofuels is worse for the planet than gasoline

Two studies published in the journal Science shed some light into the overall cost of biofuels. Taken into account is not only the greenhouse emissions generated by burning biofuels but all of the emissions generated when producing biofuels.

According to one article the estimated impact of using corn based ethanol is double the amount of greenhouse emissions currently being produced by gasoline over a 30 year time span. An alternative method of ethanol production using switchgrass is estimated to increase emissions by a whopping 50 percent.

With governments around the world pushing to establish hard mandates on the use of biofuels and other renewable methods of energy production, we could be setting ourselves up to cause more harm than good. The U.S. Congress has set a target to raise the use of biofuels from 7.5 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons by 2022. That’s a 480 percent increase. That would push greenhouse gas production in the U.S. up by an order of magnitude.

At the same time, in order to produce these biofuels, farmland is cleared for the growth of ethanol-reliant crops. Clearing land for farming has a cost in greenhouse emissions, as does growing and harvesting these crops. Add that in to the cost of refining and burning these crops and we are generating far more emissions than simply using gasoline and oil.

Scientists in the U.S. and Europe have written letters to their respective governments warning them that biofuels in their current form will only exacerbate the production of greenhouse emissions and push the world further towards climate change.

The United Nations stated it wants to continue with the production of biofuels and reap any potential benefits. The organization admitted however that biofuels are not the silver bullet they were led to believe.

Dr. Searchinger is advocating a switch in gears for the production of biofuels. The use of organic waste in the production of biofuels would get around the problem of clearing and farming previously unused lands which cause so much of the greenhouse emissions that hold back any potential benefits of using biofuels. Using organic waste could also be well on it’s way to becoming a reality thanks to recent breakthroughs in this field.

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RE: Generalization
By Ringold on 2/8/2008 11:59:37 AM , Rating: 2
I read in the Economist last year of strains being researched that'll produce gasoline directly themselves; that sort of technology really will be impressive, once it's viable. People just need a little patience so engineers and everyone else can get the work done instead of this mad rush to inefficient technology just for the sake of immediate gratification from being active irrespective of how effective that activity is.

RE: Generalization
By KristopherKubicki on 2/8/2008 1:15:56 PM , Rating: 2
The most promising, sustainable biofuel production I've seen to date clearly is cellulosic ethanol:

RE: Generalization
By Master Kenobi on 2/8/2008 1:42:33 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely. With no shortage of waste to be processed this could provide us with a new form of "recycling" of certain substances.

RE: Generalization
By Hoser McMoose on 2/9/2008 8:43:40 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol as a whole isn't really all that good of a choice. It has a lower energy content and can't be easily transported via pipelines. Ethanol mostly just became popular because it's something we KNOW. We've been making ethanol for thousands of years so we've pretty well perfected the process.

Biobutanol, biogasoline and biodiesel all tend to be better solutions as actual fuel. Methods of production for all of these vary, but they certainly could include the use of some waste materials.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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