As seems to be so often the case, scientists are now finding that the government push to encourage everyone to use biofuels instead of plain old oil based gasoline may making the environment worse, not better. Here is the story from The Nature Conservancy:
A new study by The Nature Conservancy and the University of Minnesota finds that converting land for biofuel crops results in major carbon emissions, actually worsening the problem of climate change instead of mitigating it.
The first-of-its-kind study will be published in Science later this month and was posted online today.
“This research examines the conversion of land for biofuels and asks the question ‘Is it worth it?’ Does the carbon you lose by converting forests, grasslands, and peatlands outweigh the carbon you ‘save’ by using biofuels instead of fossil fuels? And surprisingly, the answer is no,” said lead author Joe Fargione, a scientist for The Nature Conservancy. “These natural areas store a lot of carbon, so converting them to croplands results in tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.”
Fargione continued, “We analyzed all the benefits of using biofuels as alternatives to oil, but we found that the benefits fall far short of the carbon losses. It’s what we call ‘the carbon debt.’ If you’re trying to mitigate climate change, it simply does not make sense to convert land for biofuels production.”
This should–but probably won’t–give policymakers pause before they continue micromanaging our energy marketplace.