“Biofuels Aren’t Part Of The Solution At All.”

“They’re part of the problem.” So concludes Michael Grunwald’s recent Time Magazine cover story, “The Clean Energy Scam.”

Most readers are probably aware that biofuels have been the subject of increasing scrutiny over their potential to cause a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions due to deforestation, as well to raise food prices. But I for one, didn’t realize it was the completely “case closed” situation that is implied in the Time piece.

If true, does it not mean that biofuel production should be halted immediately? What’s Imperium Renewables to do with that $214 million they raised last year?  And what of Dr. Dan and all those biodiesel-burning VWs and Benzes with their “No War Required” bumper stickers?

Are there factors not considered in the Time piece that would support continued biofuel use under certain, perhaps localized circumstances? It’s probably safe to say that it’s still a net gain to burn waste vegetable oil, though that supply is relatively small.  Are there any other conditions under which biofuels make sense?

5 Responses to ““Biofuels Aren’t Part Of The Solution At All.””

  1. Andrew

    Ethanol is a bad one, and biodiesel as it is produce today is also questionable. But diesels in general aren’t terrible.

  2. Matt the Engineer

    I’ve been following this for a while, and my best answer is that the issue is too complex for the casual observer. Reused oil is good, and cellulistic ethanol may some day be good, but about everything else is killing our planet with good intentions.

  3. Josh Mahar

    biofuel can theoretically be any fuel made from an organic matter. This is of course good because organic matter is renewable. I think the problem is that a mass market will just never be the place for it. Localized biefuel is great but were just simply not at a good economic or social structure in which this makes sense. I say, thumbs down on biofuels for now.

  4. mistamatic

    Yes, it’s still worthwhile, because the goal is to move from using counterproductive raw materials to ones that are more bottom-of-the-foodchain types with limited food usage like canola, camilina, and switch grass. Crops that aren’t hard on the climate and more easily renewed, supposedly. There’s a bit of an article here about a new bio fuel station coming to downtown:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/343520_biofuel14.html

  5. dave

    Ethanol is horrible — requires more energy to produce it than what you get out of it. And while biodiesel is better, we stopped buying “virgin” biodiesel for our ‘87 Benz because of the raping of the SE Asian rainforests that’s now going on in order to grow palm oil for biodiesel. We’re running our car on biodiesel made from restaurant waste oil, but obviously there’s not enough of that for everybody to use. We’ll probably switch to an electric car one of these days. But the main point is that there’s no silver bullet that’ll allow everybody to keep driving all the time! At some point people will have to shift their expectations on getting around. We moved to the Central Area so that we could walk to work — not to be cool/hip/liberal, etc, but because A) I enjoy walking and it’s my only form of regular exercise and B) We could see the writing on the wall with traffic getting worse, driving getting more expensive, and, of course, the need to reduce our carbon footprint.

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