Biofuel crops may worsen global warming: study
Barry Artiste, Straight Facts Environmentalist, Now Public Contributor
Gee, and to think I reported these same concerns months ago in my many stories on Junk Science. Clearing forests to make arable land was my biggest concern, pesticides , fungicides, herbicides and other chemicals to grow this and the resulting runoff into streams and deep water wells brings another host of problems. Also there are no fuel pipelines in place to deliver Biofuels to market, hence many, many polluting trucks and railroads are needed to get these biofuels to your local gas stations. Then there is a mechanical aspect using biofuels in automobiles, though engines may like biofuel, the starches and sugars they create as a byproduct are not handled very well by a vehicles fuel injectors and or carburateurs, so at $2,000.00 a pop to take em (fuel injectors) ($1,000.00 for Carburateurs) apart, clean them or replace every 6 months or a year, certainly makes biofuels unattractive, not to mention trying to run Biofuel in Wintery Northern climates where winter temperatures will leave you stranded on the side of the snowbanked road. Who knew I and many others who actually work in the environment industry would be correct. And our prophesy didn't cost the Taxpayers a cent. But then, people feel Common Sense "Free Advice" isn't worth the Story it is typed on, when others like Al Gore who charge millions for Junk Science advice is taken at face value worldwide by a gullible public.
Some of my detractors state, why not BioDiesel? That would solve all the world's problems and be a better alternative. Okay for sake of arguement lets use Biodiesel, but then worse issues remain, you need to use a diesel engine, which are a minority in a world of fuel driven cars, to convert to diesel engines, you need to replace your fuel guzzling engine. So worldwide engine manufacturers would have to retool all their engine plants to now manufacturer Diesel Engines, imagine the increase in pollution to do that? Not to mention all the untold millions and millions of old fuel driven engines hitting the scrapyard, granted they can be recycled, but recycling causes even more pollution when the engines are melted down. Now we come to price, Consumers would need to pay on average $10,000.00 dollars to convert their engines and the vehicles computer controlled management systems, and possibly transmissions and gear ratios. Failing this, hundreds of millions of cars would hit the scrap heap over the purchase of even more expensive cars with diesel engines. Just imagine if you will hundreds of millions of cars worldwide in scrapyards leaching pollutants into the soil while awaiting a meltdown in a polluting Recycling plant. There is no Environmental Recycling Fairy who with the wave of a wand can instantly convert millions upon millions of old cars without worldwide pollution, though I am sure Al Gore would like you to believe there is a fairy out there in La La land. So after these millions upon millions of cars are recycled into new hybrid biodiesel cars, which by the way will cause even more pollution in the manufacturing of new cars along with voliatile organic compounds "VOC's" to hit the atmosphere, "Ever wonder what that new car smell is?" That new car smell is offgassing of benzene, toulene used in plastics and other VOC's wafting to your nostrils.
Finally after all is said and done, these new environmentally friendly cars have to hit the market where you live travelling thousands of miles to get to your town by polluting trains or transport trucks.
Then and only then, can a Poor Sap of a consumer shell out around $30,000 to $40,000 dollars for their new environmentally biodiesel car, options not included. So before detractors state " What about Pollution and our Children" I say, put your money where your mouth is, if you want a cleaner environment, use your brain and think, biofuels are not the answer, moderate usage of your vehicle is, public transport is, recycle your garbage, use less energy, get out and walk to the store, and when it comes to appliances and electronics, if it's broke, fix it, don't buy throw away cheap manufacturered products.
My Final Thought
The Truth Hurts, but the Facts hurt less, and Al Gore and his Junk science will kill us all.
And since when did listening any Politicans like Al Gore ever come into vogue?
This judging by the small minority (10-30%) of people in the world who actually get off their ass and vote.
The saying "You can pay me now, or pay me later" certainly applies here.
Biofuel crops may worsen global warming: study
Updated Sat. Feb. 9 2008 9:04 AM ET
Philip Stavrou, CTV.ca News
Converting land for biofuel crops results in major carbon emissions and actually worsens the problem of global warming instead of mitigating it, says a new study.
The study by Nature Conservancy, an organization working to protect ecologically important lands and waters, will be published in Science magazine later this month.
"Our study found that any biofuel that causes clearing of natural ecosystems will increase global warming," Joe Fargione, a scientist for The Nature Conservancy, told CTV.ca.
"This is the first study to fully account for the effects of land clearing."
Fargione said the carbon lost by converting forests, grasslands and peatlands outweighs the carbons saved by using the resulting biofuels instead of fossil fuels.
"Most people don't realize that there's three times as much carbon in the plants' soil of the earth as there is in the air," said Fargione.
He said converting natural areas into croplands results in tons of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere -- a carbon 'debt' that outweighs any benefits.
For example, in the Indonesian peatlands, converting a hectare of land to a palm plantation requires workers to dig a canal and drain the peatlands -- which causes the rich, organic soils to decompose.
"So over 50 years that peatland would emit over 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide," said Fargione.
"It would take over 420 years to payback that carbon debt."
In the U.S., the carbon debt created by the conversion of grasslands to corn crops is 111 tons of CO2 per hectare, said Fargione.
He said the payback time for the debt is 93 years.
"The reason there's a carbon debt is when you plow (land)... and plant annual crops you increase the decomposition of the soil and that causes tons of carbon to move from the soil through the air as carbon dioxide," said Fargione.
Currently, overall land-use change -- mainly attributed to deforestation -- accounts for 25 per cent of global emissions, said Fargione.
"If we make our food (such as corn) into biofuels, people are going to cut down more forests to produce more food and that's going to contribute to that 25 per cent," he said.
Robin Speer, vice-president of Public Affairs with the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA), told CTV.ca that land is not being converted in Canada.
'In Canada, ethanol is made from grains such as wheat and corn, and biodiesel is made from canola and soy oil, or animal fats and restaurant grease," said Speer.
"There is no land being converted, and much of these grains are surplus, so we are just giving farmers a new market and creating thousands of new jobs in rural Canada."
In the U.S., energy legislation signed in December mandates a six-fold increase in ethanol use as a fuel -- 36 billion gallons a year by 2022.
Dr. Donald L. Smith, Chair of the Department of Plant Science at McGill University, told CTV.ca that the U.S. is more concerned about energy security than it is about the environmental impacts of creating biofuels.
Still, Smith said there are ways to make converting land for biofuel crops a viable option for both the economy and the environment.
"It depends on the biofuel crop and how you produce it," he said. "With biofuels in the long run, if we do the right crops with the right production methods it could be very beneficial.
"But I think the approach that's being taken right now is probably not the right one."
Smith said planting fast-growing grasses (switchgrass, miscanthus, etc.) instead of corn could be an alternative method.
Smith said corn probably produces more biofuels per hectare than fast growing grasses, but when comparing net increases -- fossil fuels in versus biofuels out -- switchgrass is much better.
The fast-growing grasses may also provide a solution to the overall problem of using food crops for purposes other than food, said Smith.
Still, he admits that the research into conversion of biofuel crops like switchgrass is relatively new in comparison to the progress made on corn.
The Nature Conservancy study also predicts that switchgrass, if it replaces croplands and other carbon-absorbing lands, will still result in 50 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions -- when compared to using gasoline over a 30-year period.
Researchers say the focus needs to shift to creating biofuels from waste products, such as garbage.
The CRFA agrees that these "next-generation biofuels" will help Canada grow beyond oil.
"Next-generation biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, will be made from many different sources of organic biomass such as municipal solid waste, forestry and wood waste, and agricultural residues (like wheat straw, corn cobs, etc.)," said Speer.
"Biodiesel will also be made from fast-growing non-edible plants like algae. The technology is developing rapidly and the story keeps improving - more clean-burning fuels for a better renewable future, with cleaner air and better prices at the pumps for all consumers."
In Canada, the Conservative government is pushing for an average of 5 per cent renewable fuel content in Canadian gasoline by 2010.