Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When You'll Do Anything To Avoid The Problem

Somehow the problem just keeps getting worse. Because we are unwilling to face a future without cars--in fact, we seem to be quite willing to sacrifice the world on the altar of the car--we seem willing to do anything to keep the cars rolling. Biofuels are one such approach; sequester carbon in plants, then convert the plants to usable fuel, and burn the fuel to keep the cars rolling while re-emitting the same carbon. The thinking is that this is, if not a zero-sum game, at least a significant reduction in the amount of carbon being added to the atmosphere. And it's a great way to subsidize farmers (something all governments try to do) and an opportunity for big capital to open up a brand new market (with significant government subsidy. Without which, big capital doesn't do shit). But, of course, things aren't as simple as they seem. Thus this article in the 25 March 2008 Guardian:

Using plant-based materials for fuel in cars and trucks was until
recently heralded as the answer to the need to reduce carbon emissions
from petrol and diesel fuels.

But the alarm expressed yesterday
by Professor Robert Watson, the government's highest-ranking
environment scientist, that the headlong pursuit of biofuels could
accelerate climate change, is the latest in a series of comments from
senior figures that have shaken Whitehall.

Both Watson and the
former chief scientific officer, Sir David King, have joined the chorus
of those calling for a key "sustainability" clause to be introduced to
ensure biofuels do not compound the problem by competing for land with
staple food crops and speeding up deforestation.

Speaking on
Radio 4's Today programme, Watson said: "It would obviously be insane
if we had a policy to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through
the use of biofuels that's actually leading to an increase in the
greenhouse gases from biofuels.

The rest of the article is here.

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