Stories & Reflections
Today, I read this interesting article of opinion in the International Herald Tribune:
Bring on the right biofuels
by Roger Cohen International Herald Tribune
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Where fuel distilled from plant matter was once hailed as an answer to everything from global warming to the geostrategic power shift favoring repressive one-pipeline oil states, it’s now a “scam” and “part of the problem,” according to Time Magazine. Ethanol has turned awful. The supposed crimes of biofuels are manifold. They’re behind soaring global commodity prices, the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, increased rather than diminished greenhouse gases, food riots in Haiti, Indonesian deforestation and, no doubt, your mother-in-law’s toothache. Most of this, to borrow a farm image, is hogwash and bilge.
Much larger trends are at work that dwarf the still tiny biofuel industry (roughly a $40 billion annual business, or the equivalent of Exxon Mobil’s $40.6 billion profits in 2007). I refer to the rise of more than one third of humanity in China and India, the disintegrating dollar and soaring oil prices.
The danger in all this anti-biofuel hysteria is that we’re going to throw out the baby with the bath water. (…) Right now, the biofuel market is being grossly distorted by subsidies and trade barriers in the United States and the European Union. These make it rewarding to produce ethanol from corn or grains that are far less productive than sugarcane ethanol, divert land from food production (unlike sugarcane), and have environmental credentials that are dubious.
The real scam lies in developed world protectionism and skewed subsidies, not the biofuel idea.