Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The great biofuel debate

Just out, CIBC economist Jeff Rubin’s careful study of corn ethanol finds that “benefits look marginal” compared to its huge US subsidies. National Geographic offers an interactive comparison of various biofuel sources.
“Exploding the biofuel myth,” an article in Monde Diplomatique July 2007 by Food First’s Eric Holtz-Gimenez, has been widely reprinted -– it predicts biofuel development will result in “displaced peasants, higher fuel prices and a crutch for the petrol economy” -- and furiously attacked by rightwingers. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has just called for a 5-year moratorium, saying the biofuel gold rush threatens the right to live of the world's poor. The total impact of biofuels may be worse than coal and oil, according to the 4 Jan 08 Guardian. For reliable background information, see Wikipedia (on biofuels, biomass, and second generation fuels), the debate by UK scientists in the Independent, Biofuelwatch news and powerpoints, Grist interviews, Committee of Concerned Scientists’ analysis of current US legislative proposals
also FCNL's analysis of US congress and admin proposals on energy.

Water guzzlers - gallons of water used to produce fuel to drive a family sedan one mile:
Gasoline: 1
Plug-in hybrid-electric: 10
Hydrogen: 25
Ethanol: 40-130 (Varies by region and crop. Corn is the most water-intensive)
Source cited Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Texas at Austin

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