February 07, 2008

Study: Ethanol May Add to Global Warming

Initial results of a new study were released today that suggest biofuels may be worse for the environment than petroleum.

"Using good cropland to expand biofuels will probably exacerbate global warming," concludes the study published in Science magazine.

Sounds like a real definitive conclusion. But wait it gets better.

The researchers said that farmers under economic pressure to produce biofuels will increasingly "plow up more forest or grasslands," releasing much of the carbon formerly stored in plants and soils through decomposition or fires. Globally, more grasslands and forests will be converted to growing the crops to replace the loss of grains when U.S. farmers convert land to biofuels, the study said.

Full Article

They claim that our diversion of croplands to produce energy crops will cause deforestation that will result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than if we had just burned gasoline.

Of course to make this plausible you have to totally forget that most deforestation of the Amazon takes place for cattle farming and not crop production.

DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL: 60-70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon results from cattle ranches while the rest mostly results from small-scale subsistence agriculture. Despite the widespread press attention, large-scale farming (i.e. soybeans) currently contributes relatively little to total deforestation in the Amazon. Most soybean cultivation takes place outside the rainforest in the neighboring cerrado grassland ecosystem and in areas that have already been cleared. Logging results in forest degradation but rarely direct deforestation. However, studies have showed a close correlation between logging and future clearing for settlement and farming.

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A keen observer will also note in that article there is a graphic that shows the amount of deforestation that has taken place each year since 1998 and 2007 had the least amount of deforestation at a time when ethanol production was at it's highest.

On top of that you have to forget that the future of petroleum lies in projects like the tar sands of Cananda.

The tar sands are found beneath boreal forest, a complex ecosystem that comprises a unique mosaic of forest, wetlands and lakes. Canada's boreal forest is globally significant, representing one-quarter of the world's remaining intact forests. Beyond the ecosystem services it provides (cleansing water, producing oxygen and storing carbon), it is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, lynx and some of the largest populations of woodland caribou left in the world. Its wetlands and lakes provide critical habitat for 30 per cent of North America's songbirds and 40 per cent of its waterfowl.

If currently planned tar sands development projects unfold as expected, approximately 3,000 square kilometres of boreal forest could be cleared, drained and strip-mined to access tar sands deposits close to the surface, while the remaining 137,000 square kilometres could be fragmented into a spider's web of seismic lines, roads, pipelines and well pads from in situ drilling projects. Studies suggest that this scale of industrial development could push the boreal ecosystem over its ecological tipping point, leading to irreversible ecological damage and loss of biodiversity.

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So the results of this study are perfectly plausible as long as we first agree to totally ignore facts and blame all deforestion on ethanol and believe that petroleum production will be no worse for the environment in the future.

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