December 02, 2010

2010 Amazon Deforestation Rate Lowest Ever Recorded

Remember a couple of years back when headlines such as these were popping up all over the place?

U.S. ethanol may drive Amazon deforestation May 17, 2007
Switch to Corn Promotes Amazon Deforestation December 27, 2007

Since 2007 ethanol production has increased by more than 4 billion gallons per year, going from 6.5 billion gallons produced in 2007 to 10.6 billion gallons produced last year. And we are on pace to produce close to 13 billion gallons this year.

And yet according to news out of Brazil, Amazon deforestation is at record low levels.

Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon declined 14 percent from August 2009 to July 2010, reaching the lowest rates ever recorded for the second consecutive year, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced today in Brasília. Satellite images analyzed by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show that an estimated 6,450 square kilometers of forests were cleared in the 12-month period, bringing rates to their lowest since monitoring started in 1988.

The theory that diverting a portion of the corn crop to produce ethanol would cause farmers in other parts of the world to plant more corn, possibly clearing rainforests and other sensitive ecosystems to do so, is the backbone of the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) theory. And the ILUC theory is incorporated in several fuel related policies such as California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and in the Renewable Fuel Standard II (RFS2).

As you can image learning that deforestation rates in Brazil are falling even as ethanol production increases deals a serious blow to the ILUC theory. But I can hear the critics now saying that this is just one country and deforestation could be on the increase elsewhere.

Not according to a recent paper published in Nature Geoscience by the Global Carbon Project.

The study also found that global CO2 emissions from deforestation have decreased by over 25% since 2000 compared to the 1990s, mainly because of reduced CO2 emissions from tropical deforestation.

The ILUC theory is a nice theory but the facts just keep piling up that show it to be incorrect. The question is why do we keep using it to form policy decisions even after it has been proven wrong again and again.

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