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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: The thing i like most about biofuels
By masher2 (blog) on 2/8/2008 4:05:03 PM , Rating: 5
> "but a farmer already does that with any crop hes gonna farm"

Right, but we *need* to grow food. We don't need to produce ethanol fuel. And when we use so much oil to grow corn, you may think buying ethanol rather than gas is a stick in the eye to the oil barons, but it really just hurts us, not them.

The key here is efficiency. Ethanol is a highly inefficient means of turning oil, labor, and a large amount of other resources into fuel. That inefficiency costs us money and ultimately, reduces the resources we could use to truly solve problems. It might be worth it anyway if it was buying us some energy independence...but it's not. Far better to use those billions of dollars of ethanol subsidies in researching a true solution to the problem.

A free market always finds the most efficient means of production. Government mandates interfere with that, and ultimately hurts us all.


RE: The thing i like most about biofuels
By kattanna on 2/8/2008 5:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
true, but you have to remember that when we started to harvest that "waste" product in our search for kerosene, it was HIGHLY inefficient then too. over the many decades since, the process has been highly refined.

Just imagine if we had kept refining ethanol production from way back then how much more efficient we would be at it today?


By masher2 (blog) on 2/8/2008 8:15:48 PM , Rating: 2
The difference is that the products developed from petroleum refining weren't widely produced and sold *until* they were cheaper and more efficient than the alternatives.

Our production of ethanol will continue to improve as well. However, it'd do so faster and with less wasted resources if the government would stop subsidizing it. Instead of wasting time with corn, we'd be devoting all our efforts to R&D on more efficient means of production.


By Hoser McMoose on 2/9/2008 8:25:25 PM , Rating: 3
We've been making ethanol for nearly 10,000 years! How much more time do we need?

The Economist actually had a good comment about it, that we use ethanol not because it was a good solution, but just because it's something we KNOW. Simple fact is that making ethanol to power a vehicle really isn't all that different from making ethanol to drink.


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