Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It may be corny but it ain't that green. The truth about biofuels.

The real irony about biofuels from corn is that they just aren't as "green" as once was thought. It takes a lot of energy resources to produce corn and then process it into a biofuel. Also land is being stripped of essential growth in the South American rain forests to make room for corn fields. Land formally set aside to lay fallow in the US is being opened up for biofuel crops instead of allowing it to rest and restore itself through natural processes. Animals are losing essential habitats and we are losing biodiversity. "The sorts of problems that biofuels are causing are irreversible,'' Robert Bailey, policy adviser to the development charity Oxfam, said in a telephone interview. "If rainforest gets chopped down, it's gone forever. If somebody loses access to food, they become malnourished, their physical and mental development is impaired and they may die.'' See Biofuels do More Harm than Good. According to a study, co-authored by Joe Fargione, a regional scientist for the Conservancy, “converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a ‘biofuel carbon debt’ by releasing 17 to 420 times more carbon dioxide than the fossil fuels they replace." The land used to grow crops for biofuels has to undergo intensive farming techniques that will add stress to the environment in the form of additional pesticides and fertilizers in the soil and ground water. Left fallow, the soil would be rebuilt through the natural grasses that would be allowed to thrive and breakdown in the soil but intensive farming will leave the soil depleted and unable to produce without continuing to add more and more chemical nutrients. The real kicker is that biofuels from corn crops cannot be produced in large enough quantities to give any real independence from fossil fuels. In addition, diverting corn crops to biofuels reduces the amount of food that is grown for our ever more hungry world. When corn is diverted to make ethanol, then the cost of corn goes up. If farmers can make more money planting corn, they plant more corn and less wheat. Then the price of wheat rises. With fewer grains being grown for food, there is less food to feed farm animals and the cost of meat, eggs, and dairy product rise. The delicate balance of our food basket is tipping at an alarming rate. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, the Consulting Editor of The Economic Times, India's largest financial daily writes in an article for, "Ironically, even if the US and Europe meet their biofuel targets, these will meet only 6% of their transport fuel needs. So, mandated biofuel use cannot give the West independence from Middle East oil supplies. But it can cause hunger and death for millions of poor people by raising food prices. Many green groups that claim to speak for the hungry millions have been deafeningly silent about the terrible impact of mandatory biofuel targets in the US and Europe, since the greens once led agitations for those very biofuel policies, blissfully ignorant of the consequences for the poor. Today you hear of activists appealing for more food aid, but no agitation for abolishing the insane, inhuman policy of mandatory biofuel targets. Biofuels endangering habitats For more information on this topic: Buzz it up

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