Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Growing Case Against Biofuels?

Okay so "going green" and recycling are all the rage these days. You know that. You also hear a lot of people talking about corn-based ethanol and other biofuels. And you probably shrug your shoulders and say, sure why not? Brazil is making biofuel work, right? Yes. But Brazil is not the United States. Did you know that? Really?

Did you know that Brazil has more fertile soil (think higher crop yields), a better climate for agriculture than the States, its people drive less than Americans and population density there is lower? These factors add up to a model that we can't reproduce here in the United States,
I learned via a recent feature at New Scientist. According to a Worldwatch Institute study, it takes 3 percent of Brazil's agriculture land to serve 10 percent of its oil consumption. The U.S. on the other hand would require 30 percent of its farmland to meet this level.

Of course, all the pesticides and fertilizer required to grow the crops that would be converted into biofuel carry a steep environmental cost. And think of all the fuel used to create and distribute this stuff. Think of all the fuel required to run the machinery that cultivates and harvests fuel crops, then consider the machinery used to convert the plants into fuel. Actually, don't worry about it. David Pimentel of Cornell University already has. His conclusion: "corn ethanol creates more greenhouse gases than burning fossil fuels."

Fear not biofuel supporters, all is not lost. There are some adventurous companies out there trying to come up with more efficient biofeuel creation processes. For example, Canada's logen is working on a process to create biofuel using a tropical fungus that can simplify the process (cutting out steps that cause pollution).

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.