Difficult Road for Ethanol in Brazil

sugar caneThe tightening of the Brazilian ethanol market for use as a biofuel clearly demonstrates there is no way enough biomass could ever be grown to meet a significant portion of current, much less anticipated, world energy needs without causing great environmental harm. Biofuels “fight for space in the environment, they fight food production… [t]hey are not the answer to the energy crisis.” Locally produced biofuels may help move local economies towards relocalized sustainability, but on the international agro-industrial scale which they are being proposed they are certain to further degrade land and water ecosystems without appreciably contributing to solving the energy and climate crises.

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6 Responses

  1. Biofuels can be done badly, for sure, and they are only a piece of the puzzle. But cellulose based biofuels do have potential for replacing a significant amount of petroleum, with actual environmental improvements. By replacing wheat and soy with switchgrass, a native perennial grass, we could dramatically reduce water and chemical use as well as erosion, while producing both protein for animal feed as well as fuels. Scenarios for this by the Role of Biomass in America's Energy Future project are outlined in the NRDC paper, “Growing Energy,” as well as my on paper, “The New Harvest,” http://www.ef.org/biofuels. Going even further than those scenarios, which envision a fleet of 50 mpg cars, a fleet of plug-in hybrids, we hope using wind, solar, wave and tidal electricity, could run most of the time on electricity and use liquid biofuels as a supplement. Of course, at the same time, we need to make driving less necaessary by re-designing our communities. That is a longer term process.

  2. Glenn D says:

    Im afraid, the cold heart fact's are, that nothing will ever replace cheap oil pumped out of the ground. The concept of growing our energy, on a planet that is in the mist of a massive climate change is insane. We dont even know if will have a bread basket region in 10 year's. With the world Democracie's needing a 3% increase in energy every year to survive, where is this going to come from. Again we are avoiding the issue, it's conservation on a mass scale. Bye Bye 13 mile a gallon S.U.V.s or 8 mile a gallon R.V.s . It's time we face the cold heart fact's that the cheap ride is over. We guzzeled oil like it was water, like their was an endless supply. We knew this was coming in the 70's.. What did we do …Hummer's was our answer. Hemi – Truck's was our answer. Now people complain about ( High Gas Price's )give me a break ! . Now every Tom , Dick , and Harry has a hair brain scheme to solve this problem…were 20 year's to late. Just like Global warming we need to see cat 5 Hurricane's as a norm and citie's wiped off the face of this earth. To say somthing's wrong ,when we were warned. We created these problem's ( Now World Deal with them )and stop looking for short cut's because their are none.

  3. James says:

    Just a few comments on this article.. I will try to keep it brief.
    You are right, agriculture is very harmful, that's why The Green Party supports a rapid transition to organic agriculture which would build and strengthen local food economies and rural communities and provide nutrient-rich food to consumers, and which is also local, small-scale, energy-efficient, ecologically friendly and socially beneficial agriculture that provides a stable income for small farms.
    Also, you said “Proposed solutions are often inadequate, such as the idea that hybrid cars can appreciably make the world's car culture sustainable”
    But failed to give any reasons for this view? If your referring to the energy cost to prepare the hydrogen, being more wasteful then running the car on gas? Please remember that if the whole operation was powered by
    alternative energy, such as wind, there would be no emissions.
    Not any one technology is the answer, the goal is to use them all, simultaneously, to replace our dependence on the unsustainable technology.
    If you would like to debate this, email me back! I look forward to hearing
    your views.
    GPC Intern

  4. Glenn D says:

    Man relie's to much on science and avoid's plain old common sense. The problem is now and conservation is a now solution. Dont get me wrong, science is good but science is theory until proven. A long term process not a now solution ! 6 dollar's a gallon, and will be in a depression, in America anyway. Then science will work, will have 20 year's to get back on our feet to implement these new technologie's.

  5. Almuth Ernsting says:

    I would like to comment on what Patrick Mazza writes. Growing energy crops must mean either a displacement of food production or global expansion of agriculture. There really is no way round this. And there is just no way either can be sustainable, not when crops are coming under ever greater pressure from climate change already. Of course, we must capture energy from organic, including agricultural waste, and it would be wonderful to help the two billion people who completely rely on biofuels today to grow them efficiently, rather than having to destroy their forests and losing their health, education and food in the process. And, by the way, the World Food Programme have just cut rations to famine-victims in East Africa in half, below survival levels, because the US and Europe failed to donate enough grain. Any link with us burning some of our food in our cars now? I don't know – but an ethical dilemma all the same.

  6. ben blankenship says:

    Maybe we should start thinking about our energy and environmental concerns by eliminating the combustion engine. There seems to be a growing possibility of fuel cells actually being allowed to compete with combustion engines in the automotive sector. The arguement of energy source and quantity, in regards to environmental issues, might be different if actual energy efficiency were increased from 20 -40% efficient (across the board) to an average of 40 -60%. With diminished pollutants or cyclical Co2 production. Just a thought.

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