Obama’s Hard Choices on Biofuels

Corn is food, not fuelA Time Magazine article [ark] late last year highlighted well our objections to industrial agrofuels [search], indicating there are some hard choices to be made on ethanol by President Obama and his Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Both have been strong supporters of biofuels. Yet there is strong scientific evidence that using cropland to grow fuel instead of food is highly environmentally and economically damaging. Doing so both raises food prices around the world, while intensifying the conversion of forests and wetlands into croplands.
Because Vilsack and Obama both have a deep interest in climate change, it is hoped they will join other devoted biofuels advocates in changing their mind, after recognizing biofuels are making climate change worse [search], and that they contribute to food insecurity worldwide. Sadly, it appears they are going to increase ethanol requirements in gasoline [ark]. Yet, Vilsack is clearly aware of the new research suggesting that biofuels in general, and corn ethanol in particular, create more carbon emissions by accelerating deforestation than they save by replacing fossil fuels. Vilsack goes on to falsely suggest that second-generation biofuels like cellulosic ethanol production will be more ecologically sound and not displace food crops.
In the end it all comes down to land, and whether it will be covered with natural carbon and biodiversity rich ecosystems, or toxic single species monocultures. We recognize that industrial agriculture and the growth of agrofuels will always intensify pressures upon natural rainforests, as has been the case for millennia.
Blog entry with Rainforest Rescue

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7 Responses

  1. Patrick Troup says:

    Thanks for the entry. I always appreciate them.
    I vote for you to write more, Glen!
    Maybe you can make a Spring resolution to write 1/3 more or double the amount your currently. write.
    Thanks and have a great, sustainable day all.

  2. GoGreenChum says:

    Whatever choice they make they better research it thoroughly enough and make a good decision. Changes should be for the better not for the worse.
    Land should be used to grow food plain and simple.
    Jamie Boyle
    Get Clean! Go Green !

  3. R. Gates says:

    To some extent, the farm lobbists and farm states sort of pushed this whole bio-fuel thing on Obama and the country for that matter. It seems so right on the surface, before you look into the actual ramifications and costs involved. Obama and the country and the world will be forced to rethink the biofuel issue and reverse course…and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later…
    R. Gates

  4. Tommy says:

    It really worries me to read things like this. I'll be the first to admit, I don't normally have all of the facts and I don't follow politics as closely as I should, but it sounds to me like no matter what decision comes from the White house, we're in trouble. Eventually, we may have no alternative but to switch to alternative fuels, and if that's the case, than it sounds like we'll just end up paying for it in food. It's a vicious circle we're living in and the only thing I know for sure is I'm glad I'm not in charge of trying to figure it out.

  5. Charles says:

    I wanted to share a related story and information on how biofuel is made and how it is affecting the country:

  6. Blog On Smog says:

    Use of Ethanol-blended gasoline means two things: (1)we are using less oil; and (2) more lower grade oil is used (ethanol raises the octane level)
    So ethanol is allowing us to use our gas-guzzling cars longer than would have otherwise.

  7. Fernando says:

    People, get your facts straight about crop-based ethanol before bashing it! Study a little bit about Brazilian sugarcane-based ethanol, and how it is superior to corn-based ethanol.
    Sustainability, by the way, is all about consuming less, dear Americans. Can you handle it?

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