The widespread use of ethanol from corn could result in nearly twice the
as the gasoline it would replace because of expected land-use changes,
researchers concluded Thursday. The study challenges the rush to
biofuels as a response to .
The researchers said that past studies showing the benefits of ethanol in combating
have not taken into account almost certain changes in land use
worldwide if ethanol from corn "” and in the future from other
feedstocks such as switchgrass "” become a prized commodity.
"Using good cropland to expand biofuels will probably exacerbate
global warming," concludes the study published in Science magazine.
Promoters of biofuels often hold up Brazil as an example of a model ethanol mandate. Forget for a moment that in fact ethanol still makes up only a small percentage of the transportation fuel market in Brazil. Think of all those satellite photos we used to see of farmers burning the Amazon to expand cropland:
I know that correlation is not equal to causation, but the fact is that this land clearing, which has always one on, really accelerated after the Brazilian ethanol mandates and subsidies. My prediction is that careful academic work in the coming years will pin the blame for a lot of the destruction of the Amazon on ethanol.
The study's findings aren't likely to change government policy, since
ethanol mandates are a political boondoggle that only dupes expect to
have any effect on the climate. If the first caucuses were held in
Hawaii, they'd be forcing us to run our cars on macadamia nuts instead