Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"For science’s sake, the EU must legislate on biofuels land use change" EurActiv.com

"Producing tens of millions of tonnes of biofuel requires a large increase in agricultural output, or a correspondingly large reduction in the amount of food people eat. If the extra agricultural production comes from clearing land to expand farms, either in Europe itself or further afield in countries like Brazil or Indonesia, it will cause the loss of carbon stored in the soil and in biomass (grasses, shrubs, trees and so forth) on the land, emitted as carbon dioxide."


"Advocates, foes of biofuels mandate get ready to rumble" The Hill's E-2 Wire

"The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been an “unmitigated success” that curbs oil import reliance and creates jobs.

No wait, forget that . . . the national biofuels mandate is actually an “unworkable law that places consumers at risk of high food and fuel costs, engine damage, and environmental harm.”


"Ethanol Mandate to be Debated for Two Days Before House Panel" Yahoo News

"After a year battling over the airwaves and strategizing behind closed doors, the legions of lobbyists fighting over a federal biofuels mandate will finally get the chance to present their arguments to Congress during a two-day House hearing starting Tuesday.'


"The Ethanol Tax" Wall Street Journal

"The quickest way for Washington to lower prices would be to repeal the ethanol quotas. But White House energy adviser Heather Zichal said this week that repeal would be "shortsighted" because the mandate combats climate change. But even environmentalists (including Al Gore) now concede that ethanol probably increases carbon emissions."


"Our Coming Food Crisis" New York Times Op-Ed

"Moreover, the farm bill should include funds from the Strikeforce Initiative of the Department of Agriculture to help farmers transition to forms of perennial agriculture — initially focusing on edible tree crops and perennial grass pastures — rather than providing more subsidies to biofuel production from annual crops."


Saturday, July 13, 2013

"The One Issue Republicans and Democrats Can Agree On" Slate

"The fact that most ethanol is made from corn means that an increase in the ethanol content of gas could create, or exacerbate, a variety of problems, like higher food prices and elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ethanol production has also been linked to the spread of a dangerous form of E. coli."

"Ethanol fuel’s many problems have drawn together an orgy of strange bedfellows, including the petroleum lobby, environmentalists, foodies, food processors, auto enthusiasts (cars don’t like ethanol, either), and citizens of all political bents—basically everyone outside of the corn belt and D.C.’s Beltway."

"Already, the increased demand for corn created by ethanol policy in recent years has led to more land being cleared for agriculture. This activity, and the intensive tillage of the industrial farming system that produces most corn, has resulted in widespread loss of topsoil: We’ve only got about 60 years’ worth of topsoil left at the current rate of loss, by some estimates. The vast and expanding monocultures of corn that blanket the Midwest are part of this problem."

"Topsoil sequesters carbon dioxide. The more topsoil that’s lost, the less carbon dioxide is sequestered, and the more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. Thick, healthy soils are also an important natural reservoir of water; thin soil is less able to retain rainfall and irrigation, which increases the demand for water."

"Meanwhile, on the food-safety front, a mushy yellow byproduct of ethanol production called distillers grains, which is widely used in cattle feed, turns out to be a rich source ofE. coli 0157, the pathogen behind several recent recalls of E. coli-tainted beef. Though links between distillers grains and specific cases of food-borne illness have yet to be established, it has been demonstrated that the higher the percentage of distillers grains in cows' diets, the higher the level of E. coli 0157 in those cows."


Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Nobel laureate: the world is waking up to biofuel shortcomings" The Hindu

"...the amount of energy produced by biofuels is only a little more than that invested in growing and manufacturing them."

"EU Lawmakers Back Limits to Biofuels' Use in Transport" Wall Street Journal

"A growing body of evidence has shown some biofuels produce more carbon-dioxide emissions than traditional fossil fuels when taking into account how land is used to grow the crops, such as the clearing of forests. They also have repercussions for food prices, as the cultivation of biofuel crops reduces the amount of land available for other crops."


Wednesday, July 3, 2013


"He was not alone in seeing Africa as an exciting new frontier for biofuel production, with cheap land that, to an outside eye, looks wasted."

"Foreign biofuel companies promise benefits such as jobs, but their projects have driven rural communities in some of the world’s poorest countries off their land, offering only modest benefits in return, critics say."

"A 2011 report by the International Monetary Fund and United Nations agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, linked sharp rises in food prices in poor countries to the demand for land to plant biofuel crops."

"This terrifying chart shows we’re not growing enough food to feed the world" Washington Post

"It’s a question that keeps crop scientists up at night: How are we possibly going to feed the world over the next few decades?
After all, consider what we’re up against: The global population is expected to swell from 7 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050. The rising middle class in China and India is eating more meat than ever. And this is all happening at a time when we’re setting aside a greater slice of farmland for biofuels and trying not to cut down any more forests (which exacerbates climate change). Doing this in a sustainable manner is tricky."

"Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 4. Food or Fuel?" Lester Brown grist.org

 "The grain turned into ethanol in the United States in 2011 could have fed, at average world consumption levels, some 400 million people. But even if the entire U.S. grain harvest were turned into ethanol, it would only satisfy 18 percent of current gasoline demand."

"Not only are biofuels helping raise food prices, and thus increasing the number of hungry people, most make little sense from an energy efficiency perspective."

"One of the consequences of integrating the world food and fuel economies is that the owners of the world’s 1 billion motor vehicles are pitted against the world’s poorest people in competition for grain. The winner of this competition will depend heavily on income levels. Whereas the average motorist has an annual income over $30,000, the incomes of the 2 billion poorest people in the world are well under $2,000.

Rising food prices can quickly translate into social unrest. As grain prices were doubling from 2007 to mid-2008, food protests and riots broke out in many countries. Economic stresses in the form of rising food prices are translating into political stresses, putting governments in some countries under unmanageable pressures. The U.S. State Department reports food unrest in some 60 countries between 2007 and 2009. Among these were Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti."
"Yet for the foreseeable future, production of those cellulose-based fuels has little chance of reaching such levels. Producing ethanol from sugars or starches like corn or sugarcane is a one-step process that converts the feedstock to ethanol. But producing ethanol from cellulosic materials is a two-step process: first the material must be broken down into sugar or starch, and then it is converted into ethanol. Furthermore, cellulosic feedstocks like corn stalks are much bulkier than feedstocks like corn kernels, so transporting them from distant fields to a distillery is much more costly. Removing agricultural residues such as corn stalks or wheat straw from the field to produce ethanol deprives the soil of needed organic matter.
The unfortunate reality is that the road to this ambitious cellulosic biofuel goal is littered with bankrupt firms that tried and failed to develop a process that would produce an economically viable fuel. Despite having the advantage of not being directly part of the food supply, cellulosic ethanol has strong intrinsic characteristics that put it at a basic disadvantage compared with grain ethanol, so it may never become economically viable."

Ethanol trade undermines U.S. biofuels policy Thomson Reuters

" U.S. policy to boost the use of fuel from renewable sources is generating additional greenhouse gas emissions due to rising trade in ethanol between the United States and Brazil, rather than lowering emissions as intended, research by Thomson Reuters Foundation shows."

"As a result, since the start of 2011, the United States and Brazil have shipped over 1 billion gallons of ethanol back and forth – more than 500 million gallons each way. The emissions generated by the shipping have worsened the carbon footprint of both fuels."

"As demand for biofuels has grown in the United States, non-profit groups working on poverty and the environment have also weighed into the debate, arguing that growing biofuel crops on large swathes of land is hiking food prices, damaging the productivity of farmland and causing deforestation."

"Fuel firm drops plan to transport ethanol" The Boston Globe

"A fuel company has scrapped a proposal to transport ethanol by train through densely populated communities north of Boston, amid concerns from activists that the highly flammable liquid could be ignited in a derailment or attract would-be terrorists."