Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels

It is always good to see signs that a few of the less emotional environmentalists are beginning to be concerned about the blind rush to promote biofuels at all costs.

Biofuels Sustainability: The Ecological Society of America, the nation’s professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, today released a position statement (link) that offers the ecological principles necessary for biofuels to help decrease dependence on fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global climate change. The Society warns that the current mode of biofuels production will degrade the nation’s natural resources and will keep biofuels from becoming a viable energy option.

“Current grain-based ethanol production systems damage soil and water resources in the U.S. and are only profitable in the context of tax breaks and tariffs,” says ESA. “Future systems based on a combination of cellulosic materials and grain could be equally degrading to the environment, with potentially little carbon savings, unless steps are taken now that incorporate principles of ecological sustainability.”

It has been said that biofuels have achieved cult-like status and in the rush it is only too easy to overlook the big picture of environmental implications.

I love this so much it bears repeating: “biofuels have achieved cult-like status”. The real tragedy is that carbon dioxide poses no danger to the environment, however, most of the actions fighting this phantom menace are seriously detrimental to the landscape. The biologists have watched so many computer games that the physicists and astronomers are going to have to beat them repeatedly with hard science before it knocks this basic CO2 inaccuracy out of their grant writing and peer group parlor chats.