Like so many alternative energies, the negative side effects are enormous-

People are getting wise to corn ethanol for fuel. It depletes the food supply both directly by using corn for energy fuel and indirectly by raising the price of corn and so increasing the demand for corn substitutes and their price too. It increases soil erosion because corn is terrible for holding the soil in place. It encourages dangerous kinds of genetic modification and this GMO corn somehow gets into the food supply and pollutes the corn gene pool. It is inefficient energy too, giving fewer miles per gallon, and ironically being grown, processed and distributed using a lot of energy. It certainly does not reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.

Finally, Congress has let subsidies that make corn ethanol artificially competitive expire, but more and more, other kinds of food plants and non-agricultural vegetation are being made into fuel for machines. The people and wildlife that live among the plants and off of them are being pushed aside for “energy plant” plantations or just plain stripping of vegetation off the surface of the Earth.

Scientific American on-line provides a memorable example of what happens to native people; and, when the big corporations move in. Biofuels Land Grab: Guatemala’s Farmers Lose Plots and Prosperity to “Energy Independence.” By Eitan Haddok.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

4 Responses to The wonderful green world of biofuels . . . except for the people, wildlife, field and forest

  1. avatar Jon Way says:

    I think that it is madness to grow food and then turn it into biofuel – and the fact that we use fossil fuels to make biofuel usable is more madness.

    Why not use leaves and such from people’s yards for fuel? I burn leaves and sticks in my woodstove (along with wood that I rarely pay for) and get free heat out of these sources and pay probably 10% of the heating bill that my neighbors do (under $50 a month in the winter).

    • avatar rork says:

      Wood stoves aren’t a very good example, cause they generally aren’t very clean. Particulates.
      I’m more optimistic about other biofuels.

  2. avatar Daniel Berg says:

    I believe a big part of the problem with bio-fuels is lobbying.

    The greater portion of the public decides to support “green energy”. Government, in turn, feels compelled to meet the needs of the mob (to a questionable extent). There is this initial uncertainty about how to move forward with a “green energy” initiative. Next thing you know, lobbyists of all sorts are descending like locusts trying to consume all the green until until the resevoir of funding dries up. It doesn’t even matter which types of green energy and how they are created would really actually make a difference, it only matters who catches the right ear to get the money for their project.

    In the case of “bio-fuels”, ethanol was a clear victor due to agricultural politicians and lobbyists, with the refiners of the agricultural products coming close behind.

    Inevitably you end up hearing about large investors like Goldman Sachs and this or that hedge fund getting a spot at the trough.

    I personally believe that the government needs to completely re-structure how it allocates money for green-energy initiatives. I would like to see a much more decentralized infrastructure when it comes to wind & solar, and a decison making process for bio-fuels that is outisde the influence of politicians and lobbyists. I would also like about four or five gold bars, about the size of the ones I just saw on a Goldline commercial, to appear next to my desk.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      I believe you are right Daniel.

      There are people and communities all over this country and the world, who’ve taken steps to reduce carbon imprints on the planet BUT…..

      still a long way to go though, til the “browned noses” wake up and take notice.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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