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Sunday
Nov142010

Now it looks like biofuels fail two ways: CO2 and net efficiency costs.  

Somebody's parade is about to be rained on.

I've figured out that there are some essential, must-follow social rules to remain in good standing among polite company:  avoid talk about politics, religion, and--at least from my experience--man-made global warming [MMGW]!  So let me make it clear right from the beginning that I intend for the next couple of paragraphs to honor that expectation; there's no intended politics or point of view about religion--or my own take on MMGW.  

However, there's a clash coming between people who feel deeply about remedies to MMGW and people who want to decrease--for a variety of reasons--dependence on extracted fossil fuels.  You see, about 10% of all fuel at the gas pump is from agriculturally-produced biofuel--in the U.S. that would likely be ethanol.  In effect, ethanol has been seen to be a sort of perfect fuel "extender"--originally designed to reduce the need for petroleum sources extracted from the earth--and frequently supplied by other nation-states we've grown very dependent on.  

Sorry, guys, there's bad news to tell.

Last week it was reported that nine--count them, nine!--environmental groups in Europe have reached the conclusion that biofuels are not helpful in combating MMGW--in fact, they're predicted to generate between 80% and 170% more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels alone.  The European target mixture rate is 10%, about what it presently is in the U.S.; however, between the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, it is estimated that more than 40 million extra tons of carbon dioxide will be generated each year, attributable to biofuels alone, if this level is achieved by European planners.  Other American interest groups are saying the same thing.  

Furthermore, clearing land to achieve policy levels slated for biofuels will cancel much of the theoretical advantages planned and land-use to generate biofuels are also expected to detract from addressing world hunger.  

But wait there's more.

Now, what if I told you that biofuels don't even promote energy independence?  What would you think then?  Well, there's bad news on that front as well.  As long as five years ago, a Cornell University and UC-Berkeley study reported that bio-fuels are not worth the energy they produce!  That means that simply to create biofuel, there is more energy required to make it in the first place than derived from it's use in the end:  Corn requires 29% more fossil energy than the fuel produced; switch grass requires 45% more; soybean plants require 27% more; sunflower plants 118% more!

I'm not sure about you, but I'd say the jury's back and has a verdict on the economic merits of biofuels--and doesn't seem favorable, now on two counts.  
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