Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Biofuel Backfire

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Biofuel Backfire

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt" by Joseph Fargione, Jason Hill, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky, and Peter Hawthorne, in Sciencexpress, Feb. 7, 2008.

THE PROSPECT OF PAINLESSLY growing corn and sugar cane on spare land to reduce global warming always seemed too good to be true. And so it is, write Joseph Fargione of the Nature Conservancy and four coauthors from the University of Minnesota. Switching from oil to biofuels might actually make things worse.

The problem arises because plowing up large tracts of undisturbed land to plant biofuels could release vast amounts of carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2])--between 17 to 420 times more C[O.sub.2]--than the fossil fuels that are replaced.

New agricultural production generates a "carbon debt" by releasing long-sequestered C[O.sub.2] into the atmosphere as land is cleared--often by burning--and plants decompose. If, as is done in Malaysia, peat soil is drained to make way for palm tree plantations (palm oil is a source of biodiesel), environmental damage becomes even more severe because peat releases great amounts of C[O.sub.2] as it dries out. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.