NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 26, 2008

In 2005, America used 15 percent of its corn crop to replace just 2 percent of its gasoline.  Two new studies say use of biofuels will leave the world a warmer and hungrier place, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

According to David Tilman, a University of Minnesota ecologist, and Tim Searchinger, an agricultural expert at Princeton University, in a study published in Science Magazine:

  • Converting the grasslands of the United States to corn for ethanol releases excess CO2 emissions of 134 metric tons per hectare (equal to 2.47 acres).
  • The reason is that plants, from grasses to trees, store carbon dioxide in their roots, shoots and leaves.
  • There is a huge imbalance between the carbon (released) by plowing up a hectare of forest or grassland and the benefit you get from biofuels.
  • Corn-based ethanol, instead of producing 20 percent savings, nearly doubles greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years.

A team from Wetlands, Delft Hydraulics and the Alterra Research Center of Wageningen University produced a four-year study that detailed the environmental harm caused by the use of palm oil as an alternative energy source.  Their findings:

  • Some 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide go up in smoke every year from rain forest fires set to clear new land for biofuel plantations.
  • An additional 600 million tons seep into the air from drained peat swamps.
  • Those 2 billion tons of CO2 constitute 8 percent of the earth's fossil fuel emissions.

It would seem that to avoid drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), we are increasing emissions of the greenhouse gases previously absorbed by plants and encouraging that process around the world, says IBD.  Meanwhile, a world of hungry people watches us stick ears of corn into our gas tanks.

Source: Editorial, "Bio-Foolish Behavior," Investor's Business Daily, February 22, 2008.


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