Biofuel Craze May Ruin World’s Forests

by Val Germann

Yes, it is now a “craze,” this rush toward “biofuels.”  It all sounds so good, at first glance, and terms like “clean diesel” seem like harbingers of a hydrocarbon promised land.  But as we have been writing for months here at Star Phoenix Base, there is always a price to pay, always, and there are no free lunches in the natural world.  This fact is starkly highlighted in a recent article on the INTER PRESS SERVICE website.  Here’s a sample:

“Biofuels are rapidly becoming the main cause of deforestation in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil,” said Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, an environmental NGO based in Asunción, Paraguay. “We call it ‘deforestation diesel’,” Lovera told IPS. 

Now, there’s a term that you don’t see very often, to say the least.  But can this be true?  Can biofuels, part of the newest “green revolution,” actually be that harmful?  Yes.

Biodiesel offers many environmental benefits over diesel from petroleum, including reductions in air pollutants, but the enormous global thirst means millions more hectares could be converted into monocultures of oil palm.  Oil palm has become the world’s number one fruit crop, well ahead of bananas.

And there’s the rub, the enormous world wide demand for energy can never be met through biofuels, not if the human race is going to eat, too, and the world’s forests survive.  Every gallon of  “clean diesel” or corn-based ethanol takes food out of someone’s mouth, or helps chop down a natural forest, one way or another.

Read the entire IPS article and consider where this new mania for biofuels may eventually lead.  Perhaps it would be best to call the whole thing off, and soon.

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About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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