(February 8, 2008) – As regular readers will know, I am not a fan of policies that would would undermine global growth in the name of global warming. Near the top of my list, just below cap-and-trade scams, are the massive biofuel programs that have driven up food prices everywhere and dramatically reduced the real incomes of low-income people both in and outside the US.
The current issue of Science magazine has a teaser for an upcoming article, Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt, by Fargione, Hill, Tilman, Polasky and Hawthorne which shows that large-scale biofuel operations actually increase carbon emissions by altering patterns of land-use. The abstract is below:
Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food-based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a ‘biofuel carbon debt’ by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions these biofuels provide by displacing fossil fuels. In contrast, biofuels made from waste biomass or from biomass grown on abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon debt and offer immediate and sustained GHG advantages.