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Kerby Anderson

May 6, 2008



            Ethanol and other biofuels have been a hot topic the last few years. But now it appears that they have become a hot, controversial topic. While politicians and many in the agribusiness still promote ethanol, economists and environmentalists say it may be doing much more harm than good.


            Time magazine called it "The Clean Energy Myth." They point out the new studies say that "the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it."


            It turns out that when we divert grain and oilseed crops from our dinner places to our gas tanks lots of negative consequences result. Biofuels push food prices skyward and make world hunger even worse. The corn need to fill an ethanol-fueled SUV could feed one person on corn for 365 days. Harvests that could be use to feed people are being used to fuel cars and trucks.


            It is certainly true biofuels do reduced energy dependence, but only a little. And the ethanol boom has created rural jobs and enriched farmers and agribusinesses. But when you look at the impact worldwide, you see the drawbacks. Using land to grow fuel leads to destruction of forests, wetlands, and grasslands. These vast regions (especially in Brazil) store vast amounts of carbon and have an important regulatory function in our biosphere.


            Environmentalists concerning about global warming also point out another problem with ethanol. Only sugarcane-based ethanol is efficient enough to cut emissions by more than it takes to produce it. The rest of these so-called "green fuels" actually are not green at all. They are net carbon emitters.


            Unfortunately biofuels just haven't turned out to be as helpful as many people thought they would be. I'm Kerby Anderson, and that's my point of view.