|Quoting PPVRA (Reply 21):|
The only CO2 release is what the plant contains, which should be the same amount of CO2 needed to grow another plant just like that one. It recycles it. Net change is zero.
The important assumption buried in that statement is this - that if such a plant were not grown for biofuel, it would not grow at all. This is highly questionable. Most likely, another crop would be grown in its place - perhaps tobacco, cotton or a food crop. Or the land would just be left to nature, and natural growth would replace the crops. Whatever grew in that crops place would still take CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Another assumption is that global warming caused by man made CO2 is a real problem with real catastrophic consequences if nothing is done about it. I am not convinced that this is the case.
There are other problems with biofuels.....
Biofuels increase the need for farmland. This has negative consequences....
......First, it increases the price for food. One example.......We here in Illinois want to drive up the price of our corn, which feeds many people in the world, including the poor . So we lobby the federal government to subsidize ethanol production with huge tax incentives. Up goes the price of corn, and even today this has been a hardship for some rural Mexicans - who have to pay a lot more now for their standard diet. In effect, we good ole boy Illinois farmers are using our fellow American's money to drive up food prices and thus exploit the poor.
......Second, it increases the incentive to put more land under cultivation. A lot of land that used to be farmed - especially in places like New England, has now been left to return to natural conditions because it is no longer profitable to farm there. Energy crops could reduce this trend. There are actually proposals to cultivate large areas of the great plains and other land formerly left untouched - with crops like switchgrass, etc. This would undoubtedly have environmental consequences - habitat reduction, fertilizer and pesticide polution, etc.
.....Third, the aim of biofuel advocates is to make the stuff cheaper than petroleum products. When the price of biofuels is subsidized, it keeps the price of portable energy artificially low. Maybe too low. If we were to just let biofuels stand and fall on their own merits, and the price of oil keep going up, people may be more likely to change their behavior. They might think twice about the huge SUV
. They might try living closer to work. They might bike or walk on shorter trips. They might consider an electric car despite the limitations, or perhaps a hybrid. Congratulations, biofuel folks. You saved the big SUV
. You made sure that our energy use stays up, You made conservation a poor choice. You delayed the transition to electric or hydrogen vehicles. You increased polution overall. That is what we may be saying to the ethanol/biodiesel lobby thirty years from now if current trends continue.
We Illlinoisians are just patriotic down to earth, humble, environmentally aware folks. The oil companies as the big bad guys who get there living from wrecking the environment and steeling from society. That is what our lobbiests would have you believe. Actually, a strong case can be made that the exact opposite is closer to the truth.
SHORT.... if, as I suspect, the global warming "catastrophe" and "peak oil" are myths there is no need to subsidize biofuels. But even if the sky really is falling with respect to the oil supply and atmospheric CO2, it seems to me that biofuels are fake solutions. Farmland is NOT a renewable resource. There is a finite supply of it, and from that supply we must get our food. I am skeptical of those who advocate using it for energy instead. It seems to me that doing this causes more problems than it solves - both economically and environmentally. Biofuel may have a legitimate niche as a fuel additive and as a use for waste products - but don't count on it to solve the big problems.