Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ONLY POXY FOOLS BELIEVE IN BIOFUELS: Savior ethanol-from-corn production crapped on by real science

Good science news (or bad, depending on your point of view) has arrived with two reports on the carbon footprint of biofuels, in the paper edition of Science magazine. They deal serious damage to the belief - which up to now has been driving the biofuel bubble - that stepped-up ethanol production in the US is an answer to global warming.

Writing in "Use of US croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions for Land Use or Change," Timothy Searchinger and many others state: "To produce more biofuels, farmers can directly plow up more forest or grassland, which releases to the atmosphere much of the carbon previously stored in plants and soils through decomposition. The loss of maturing forests and grasslands also forgoes ongoing carbon sequestration as plants grow each year ..." (A companion piece, "Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt" by scientists at the University of Minnesota, covers similar territory.)

In total, the news puts those pushing the fad of biofuel into a real corner. There are no miracles forthcoming and all of the talk about transformative technology seems to be just that.

Read the entirety of the analysis at el Reg here.

Over the past couple months, DD has devoted some time to examining various American manias over alternative energy schemes. Most recently dissected was the repackaging of Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-liquids chemistry as something new and novel, clean coal!

The hype of biofuels in the US follows similar patterns. It's not about being green. Instead, it's about lining the pockets of corn growers in heartland states at everyone else's expense.

As a country, the US is fresh out of ideas in 2008. When new ones are said to be in process, it pays to look at them askance. Politically, a good portion of this country still doesn't believe news on climate change. And another significant portion has latched onto the salesman's idea that saving the world from global warming means big money, even if what one is actually engaged in is the opposite.

The biofuels industry in the US is a bait and switch, the promising of one good thing, energy security, and the subsequent delivery of nothing of the kind. No improvement in the quality of life plus accelerated emission of carbon dioxide.

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