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Would a five year freeze on biofuels save the planet?

In an article that is perfectly designed to elicit lots and lots of discussion (see the dozens of comments following the text), George Mobiot wrote an piece in The Guardian yesterday titled, "If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels." Sound intriguing? Read on.
Monbiot's criticisms of biofuels and government policies that promote biofuels are as follows:
  • "They are a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster" because they cause "a competition for food between cars and people."
  • Certain crop prices (for corn and what) are already increasing rapidly, thanks to ethanol demand.
  • The only way farmers can plant enough fuel crops will be "by ploughing virgin habitat."
  • Governments like biofuels because they don't really affect drivers. "They appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It's an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total."
  • Planting palm plants for biodiesel causes deforestation, and biodiesel made from palm oil "causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel."
So, take all of the negative aspects of biofuels and what do you get? Monbiot sees only one reasonable option: a five-year moratorium on all targets and incentives for biofuels.

Monbiot is right that biofuels bring their own heaping problems, especially the current production methods he has the most problems with. But he doesn't mention cellulosic ethanol or the work being done on algae biofuels. These technologies hold a lot of promise, and probably won't cause the same types of environmental destruction that palm biodiesel sometimes does. We should not cut-off these incentives.

The part where I agree with him the most is that the new fuel reality needs to affect drivers (and all of us) directly. Our fuel costs - especially the environmental ones - need to be accurately displayed so we can make the best decisions going forward.

You can read the original article here.

[Source: The Guardian via Treehugger]

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