Top British Scientist Says Biofuels Are Scam, Rainforests at Risk

June 10th, 2007 5:35 PM

Given the American media’s fascination with spreading global warming alarmism, how likely would it be to see the following headline in one of our papers:

Top Scientist Says Biofuels Are Scam.

Not very likely, right?

Well, such was the headline in England’s Sunday Times today (emphasis added throughout, h/t Alister McFarquhar):

Roland Clift will tell a seminar of the Royal Academy of Engineering that the plan to promote bioethanol and biodiesel produced from plants is a “scam”.

Clift, professor of environmental technology at Surrey University, sits on the scientific advisory council of Defra, David Miliband’s environment department.

He will tell the seminar that promoting the use of biofuels is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Shocking stuff, yes? Think Katie, Charlie, or Brian will be interviewing Clift any time soon?

Regardless of the answer, the article continued:

Clift said: “Biodiesel is a complete scam because in the tropics the growing demand is causing forests to be burnt to make way for palm oil and similar crops.

We calculate that the land will need to grow biodiesel crops for 70-300 years to compensate for the CO2 emitted in forest destruction.”

Although Clift didn’t specifically refer to the Amazon rainforest, an article published Friday by Eric Holt-Gimenez, director of FoodFirst/Institute for Food and Development Policy, did (emphasis added throughout):

Proponents of agro-fuels argue that fuel crops planted on ecologically degraded lands will improve, rather than destroy, the environment. Perhaps the government of Brazil had this in mind when it re-classified some 200 million hectares of dry tropical forests, grassland and marshes as “degraded” and apt for cultivation. In reality, these are the bio-diverse ecosystems of the Mata Atlantica, the Cerrado and the Pantanal, occupied by indigenous people, subsistence farmers and extensive cattle ranches. The introduction of agro-fuel plantations will simply push these communities to the “agricultural frontier” of the Amazon where deforestation will intensify. Soybeans supply 40 percent of Brazil’s biodiesel. NASA has positively correlated their market price with the destruction of the Amazon rainforest — currently at nearly 325,000 hectares a year.

As the reader is certainly aware, environmentalists for decades have been cautioning dire consequences to the planet as a result of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Yet, the delicious irony today is how a supposed solution to global warming is – wait for it – destroying the Amazon rainforest.

As such, in reality, if soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore and his sycophant devotees were really concerned about the environment, shouldn’t they be coming down on the use of biofuels?

This seems doubly the case given all the other environmental issues reported by Holt-Gimenez:

But when the full “life cycle” of agro-fuels is considered — from land clearing to automotive consumption — the moderate emission savings are undone by far greater emissions from deforestation, burning, peat drainage, cultivation and soil carbon losses. Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions — 10 times more than petroleum. Clearing tropical forests for sugarcane ethanol emits 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the production and use of the same amount of gasoline.

There are other environmental problems as well. Industrial agro-fuels require large applications of petroleum-based fertilizers, whose global use has more than doubled the biologically available nitrogen in the world, contributing heavily to the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. To produce a liter of ethanol takes three to five liters of irrigation water and produces up to 13 liters of waste water. It takes the energy equivalent of 113 liters of natural gas to treat this waste, increasing the likelihood that it will simply be released into the environment. Intensive cultivation of fuel crops also leads to high rates of erosion.

Shouldn’t these issues be discussed before the world begins devastating rainforests and growing lands around the planet in order to avert a climate crisis that likely doesn’t exist?

Oh, that’s right. The debate’s over.