Biofuels based on ethanol, vegetable oil and other renewable sources are popular with government and environmentalists as a way to reduce fossil fuel dependence and limit greenhouse gas emissions. The problem? They may have exactly the OPPOSITE impacts than the ones intended. Maybe we should all switch to electric cars!
Because such large amounts of energy are required to grow corn and convert it to ethanol, the net energy gain of the resulting fuel is modest. Using a crop such as switchgrass, common forage for cattle, would require much less energy to produce the fuel, and using algae would require even less. Changing direction to biofuels based on switchgrass or algae would require significant policy changes, since the technologies to produce such fuels are not fully developed.
Farmers who plant only corn because it is suddenly profitable, and don’t rotate with crops such as soybeans, are likely to greatly deplete their soil, which could limit crop growth and promote soil erosion, leading to another dust bowl.
New York Times reports that Nissan plans to sell an electric car in the US and Japan by 2010, and a prototype has already been shown in Israel. This will make Nissan the first major automaker to bring a zero-emission car to the US market.
When it comes to biofuels, biologist Martha Groom says, “We don’t want to make new mistakes. If we don’t ask the right questions to start with, we’re going to replace old problems with new ones.” In other words, the only way to plan for the future is to learn from the past. Here at unknowncountry.com, we help you do just that!
Art credit: freeimages.co.uk
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