Bio-fuel is creating more problems than it’s fixing…like deforestation. This isn’t new information, but until the media starts pushing it on A1, nobody will care.
Backed by billions in investment capital, this alarming phenomenon is replicating itself around the world. Indonesia has bulldozed and burned so much wilderness to grow palm oil trees for biodiesel that its ranking among the world’s top carbon emitters has surged from 21st to third according to a report by Wetlands International. Malaysia is converting forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that it’s running out of uncultivated land.
But most of the damage created by biofuels will be less direct and less obvious. In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars. More deforestation results from a chain reaction so vast it’s subtle: U.S. farmers are selling one-fifth of their corn to ethanol production, so U.S. soybean farmers are switching to corn, so Brazilian soybean farmers are expanding into cattle pastures, so Brazilian cattlemen are displaced to the Amazon. It’s the remorseless economics of commodities markets. “The price of soybeans goes up,” laments Sandro Menezes, a biologist with Conservation International in Brazil, “and the forest comes down.”
Deforestation accounts for 20% of all current carbon emissions. So unless the world can eliminate emissions from all other sources–cars, power plants, factories, even flatulent cows–it needs to reduce deforestation or risk an environmental catastrophe. That means limiting the expansion of agriculture, a daunting task as the world’s population keeps expanding. And saving forests is probably an impossibility so long as vast expanses of cropland are used to grow modest amounts of fuel. The biofuels boom, in short, is one that could haunt the planet for generations–and it’s only getting started.
There’s a valid case to be made that we need to ween ourselves off of crude for geo-political reasons, but bio-fuel won’t come close to doing that and everybody knows it.
I just can’t help but think there’s going to be some worldwide energy bubble that won’t just burst, it’ll explode. Will it be in our lifetimes?