Let me state for the record that I have been against the development of biofuels for a long time. I think it is just the taking of one kind of burning fuel and replacing it with another, and in the mean time nothing changes. We are still extracting something from the earth, lighting it on fire, and polluting the air with the exhaust. I am not talking here about fuel made from waste oil coming out of your local fast food joint; I am talking about the planting and harvesting of things like corn and palm oils. And it looks like I might not be alone in this thought.
This month’s Mother Jones magazine has a story about the dangers of biofuels, and it confirms my worst fears – that these new modern biofuels could possibly be worse for us and the earth than regular old petroleum is. We don’t necessarily see the dangers yet here in the U.S., as most biofuels are being grown and harvested in places like South American and Asia. In this article, the author writes about biofuel development in Indonesia:
Biodiesel emits less than one-quarter the carbon of regular diesel once it’s burned. But when production – and the destruction of ecosystems in the developing countries where most biofuel crops are grown – is factored in, many biofuels may actually emit more carbon than does petroleum, the journal Science reported last year. Because oil palms don’t absorb as much CO2 as the rainforest or peatlands they replace, palm oil can generate as much as 10 times more carbon than petroleum, according to the advocacy group Food First. Thanks in large part to oil palm plantation, Indonesia is now the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2, trailing only the U.S. and China.
This is the kind of thing that bothers me about the biofuel industry. While looking for oil, we have gone around the world digging into the earth or setting up rigs in the middle of the ocean. For biofuels, we are burning rainforest to make fuel – how is this any smarter that what we have been doing with oil? In the article I just read, it is said that if the clearing in Indonesia continues at the present rate, most of their rainforest (one of only 3 that large in the world) will be gone in a mere 13 years. Thirteen years, and an entire rainforest will be wiped out so we can continue using fuel as we have been, even if it is in a different form. This is not progress, this is more of the same. They might not be called fossil fuels, but it is basically the same idea and concept. For all that the human race has and can accomplish, I just cannot accept that this is the best we can do. I would like to see real development forward, not a slide sideways into just another thing that will damage our environment. Do I have an answer? Nope. But I am not one of those brilliant people working on these issues. For transportation, I see the future as increased public transportation options and electric cars powered & charged by solar panels or wind energy (which hopefully our homes will be powered by as well eventually). That seems easily within our reach starting today. Let’s hope that those working on alternative energy can come up with something better than yet another “fossil” fuel. What do you guys think?