Some of you may have been watching lately as our government embraces even more “renewable fuels” mandates requiring the addition of biomass based fuels into our fuel supply. While measures like California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standard and the new federal Renewable Fuels Standard claim to take into account the life-cycle carbon footprint of these fuels into account, Time Magazine points out that they still amount to giant handouts for the domestic ethanol and biofuels industry.
Earlier studies exposed corn ethanol as a carbon catastrophe; the EPA had to use extremely generous assumptions to produce scenarios in which it’s even remotely attractive as a fuel alternative. In any case, the heavily subsidized corn-ethanol industries won’t really be penalized for promoting deforestation and accelerating global warming; Congress exempted its existing plants from any consequences in the 2007 law requiring the stress tests.
In other words: O.K., O.K., it might imperil the planet, but fortunately we can’t do anything to stop it, and we actually plan to encourage it.
The large contributions of agriculture to climate change are pretty clear – amounting to somewhere around 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. When you take into account the very real impacts that biomass based fuels have on high conservation value ecosystems like tropical forests, it makes it hard to justify their use in legislation whose primary aim is to mitigate climate change.
As the Time piece so aptly puts it:
Study after study suggests that growing fuel could be a disaster for the planet, while raising global food prices and promoting global food riots. The amount of grain it takes to fill an SUV with ethanol could feed an adult for a year; we need every acre of farmland to feed the world. President Obama never claimed to be a reformer when it came to ethanol, and he and Vilsack have been big supporters of next-generation biofuels. Maybe there’s nothing EPA officials can do to stop the renewable-fuels steamroller, but it would nice if they suggested slowing it down.