NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 12, 2007

Once the darling energy source of the political left, we now hear how sugar production for ethanol is trashing the otherwise forgotten rain forest and adds to global warming.  Others are blaming ethanol for everything from poverty to floods.  However, the argument doesn't get the facts right, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).


  • Brazil is not growing sugar for ethanol production on rain forest land but in the southern grasslands, making environmentalists' renewed interest in deforestation irrelevant.
  • On the grasslands, ethanol production has barely started; Brazil's entire agricultural production is done on only 8 percent of the nation's arable land.

Environmentalists, however, are trying to sell Brazil as one big rain forest in need of "saving" instead of a diverse, rapidly industrializing country whose development is critical to conservation:

  • Poverty, not development, is the biggest danger to rain forests, as UC Berkeley professor emeritus Jack Hollander found in a study.
  • As Brazil industrialized in 2005, it reforested 553,000 hectares of rain forest, and last year it reduced Amazon deforestation by 11 percent.
  • Meanwhile, an even bigger ethanol producer, the United States, leads the world in reforestation, according to Jesse H. Ausubel, director of Rockefeller University's program for the human environment.

Ethanol is no panacea and unlikely to be more than 10 percent of energy production, but it's a viable alternative, says IBD.  If President Bush can enrage environmentalists by developing the ethanol they once championed, it is unlikely that any alternative (in the hands of Bush that is) will satisfy them.  They simply aren't serious.

Source: Editorial, "Ethanol Hypocrites," Investor's Business Daily, March 9, 2007.


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