Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Biofuels are the problem... NOT!

Wow! It's getting hot and heavy out there, and I'm not talking about global warming:

It seems like a lot of the criticism above is based on the assumption that food crops on newly cleared virgin lands are required to create biofuel. But what we are trying to do in the Valley, at least initially, is turn waste into fuel. As Brad pointed out in his post about DBI versions: "First, a reminder of what we mean when we talk about local biofuels: our focus is on locally-produced biofuels, that are derived from local, non-food feedstocks, and used locally. The current corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel models -- where fuel is derived from food crops grown in distant locations, processed elsewhere, and shipped here -- is not consistent with our vision".

The environmental analyses that contend biofuels are actually more harmful to the environment than petroleum products start with the assumption that corn, soy and sugarcane are the feedstocks for biofuels. True, but incomplete. And by leaving out the compelling benefits of non-food feedstocks leaves the impression that biofuels themselves are bad.

"Studies Call Biofuels a Greenhouse Threat". Wow! There's a headline that gets some attention! But is that an accurate statement? The article reports the "destruction of natural ecosystems" to "support biofuel development". Okay, but where does WVO-based biodiesel fit into that picture? What about jatropha (a perennial non-food shrub) planted in the desert? What about algae? What about cellulosic ethanol? What about land fill waste? The problem is not so much with the facts, but with the way they are being reported. By painting all biofuels with the same broad brushstrokes, we stand to lose a lot of help from local folks who otherwise would have been enthusiastic supporters.

When we started this project one of our operating principles was that we would put stuff out as we went along, knowing that much of it would seem naive to more experienced participants. I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to post updates and corrections as we go along. But it's amazing to see that we've learned enough in just a few months to find major flaws in internationally reported news stories.

The most balanced headline of the bunch: Some Biofuels Are Worse Environmentally Than Fossil Fuels. Agreed.

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