Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Biofuels and the law of unintended consequences

Some of the more perspicacious environmental reporters and columnists like Ron Bailey and Peter Huber mentioned last year, around the time Congress debated its energy bill, that biofuels actually caused more environmental damage than they forestalled. One reason is the amount of resources used to generate such fuels -- from the farmland for corn to trucking the oil to ethanol treatment facilities to distributing the ethanol to the gasoline purchasing public. Another reason is that the loss of forest land to farm use has a devastating effect on the ability of the earth to absorb CO2, which means it gets released in the atmosphere.

Now Science magazine -- a peer reviewed journal with no track record of flat-earth right-wing ties -- has published two studies that show the greater damage due to biofuels than current energy sources. The WSJ discusses the findings in the editorial linked above and concludes:

. . . special blame also belongs to the environmentalists, who are engaged in a grand bait-and-switch. They stir up a panic about global warming, and Washington responds to the political incentives. Then those policies don't work and the greens immediately begin pushing a new substitute, whose outcomes and costs are equally uncertain. But somehow, that never seems to discredit the entire enterprise and taxpayers keep footing the subsidy bill. Our guess is that these new revelations will also be ignored. They're too embarrassing.

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