More Problems with Bio-fuels

soy-and-corn.jpgSoy beans on the left, and corn, on the right, are being used for bio-fuel. Photo by cindy47452.

Today, Brenda Gorman reports in the New York Times about a rash of cases involving the bio-fuels industry in which industrial waste is improperly disposed, fouling rivers and streams in states like Alabama and Missouri. The title of her article suggests the internal contradictions of a purportedly green business that harms the environment: “Pollution Is Called a Byproduct of a ‘Clean’ Fuel.” As Ms. Gorman writes,

The discharges [from the bio-fuel plants], which can be hazardous to birds and fish, have many people scratching their heads over the seeming incongruity of pollution from an industry that sells products with the promise of blue skies and clear streams.

For more of TheCityFix’s coverage on bio-fuels, click here, here, here, and here.

If you’re interested in the topic, the Washington Post has a similar article, “Solar Energy Firms Leave Waste Behind in China.”

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  • Mark Van Walbeck

    A new biodiesel feedstock in the form of the shrub or small tree known as Jatropha curcas L. An environmetally friendly, sustainable and economically rewarding fuel source. According to the GETCO (Global Energy Trading Co.) web site, the crop does not compete with the food industry beacuse its seeds are inedible and grows in soils that do not support most crops.

  • Jerome Weingart

    There have been many unintended and unanticipated negative consequences of the huge scale-up in biofuels production, starting with biofuels crops. These consequences include unsustainable land use changes, erosion of vital ecosystem services, destruction of habitat in tropical forests, irreversible loss of tropical ecosystems, greatly increased greenhouse gas emissions from clearing and burning of tropical ecosystems and land use shifts in temperate climates, an increasingly contentious “food vs. fuel” debate, and concerns that some biofuels will have a greater impact on global climate change than continued use of fossil fuels, when all life-cycle aspects are properly accounted for. The often-touted benefits for landless farmers in developing countries often fail to materialize, with the poor remaining poor and not benefitting from local investments in biofuels crop production or conversion to biofuels.

    I am neither for nor against biofuels, but I am concerned that the dot com-like craze for these fuels, coupled with huge and rapidly growing public- and private-sector investments, will lead to serious environmental, social, and financial consequences for the principal stakeholders.

    A lot of good analysis has been conducted in this arena, and more is underway. What is needed, it seems to me, is a solid and dispassionate review and synthesis of this work and establishment of good practice guidelines for the transition to a sustainable biofuels industry worldwide.