Public should think twice about biofuels
The annual forest and biodiversity clearing exercise in Indonesia is drawing to a close. Here’s an article telling us that a thousand or so orangutans were burned to death this time around.
Every year, year after year, like a broken record or a slow motion horror movie, we sit around reading articles describing the extinction of the wild orangutan and other unique lifeforms. We human beings have just got to scratch that itch, that insatiable urge to increase one’s wealth, position, rank, standing, station, prestige, fame, prominence, distinction, importance, renown, influence, eclat, celebrity, esteem, glory, status, whatever.
This practice, instead of abating, appears to be accelerating as the potential for wealth grows with the market for biodiesel, which is still being promoted by everyone from rock bands to conservative Midwest politicians.
Sure, all we have to do is put in place regulations that palm oil must be grown sustainably. You know, like our food … isn’t. That idea, which at one point in time was new, sure hasn’t stopped the expansion of coffee plantations (or palm plantations for that matter), and it sure won’t work for biodiesel. Instead of consuming a few ounces of coffee or veggie oil a week, consumers will burn through a hundred times as much biodiesel. There will be an insatiable market for the lower-cost, unsustainably grown biodiesel, as there is for lumber and pretty much everything else. I think we need to try out some new ideas.
From a global warming perspective, the idea that a relatively few number of individuals can dump that much CO2 into the atmosphere while simultaneously destroying biodiversity and carbon sinks makes even my CO2-intensive American lifestyle pale in comparison.
It also pisses me off because this is my planet, too. Global warming is global. Let us all hope that our new government will usher in carbon credits soon and that they will be used wisely to protect carbon sinks, biodiversity, and the biosphere in general instead of propping up environmentally destructive but highly profitable fuels for our cars.
I’m skeptical, because as it stands now, every politician out there supports biofuels in all forms because the idea strongly appeals to the voting public who are largely unaware of the environmentally destructive potential they harbor. One thing you could do is help spread that word.