Don't Bet on Biofuels


It turns out the main obstacle to our switching over to a biofuel-based economy may not be its environmental impact or effect on global food prices: it may actually be our own greed and appetite for destruction. A recent global analysis of agricultural production has revealed that almost a quarter of the energy processed by plants is either harvested or lost due to anthropogenic activities. In addition, our actions have reduced the amount of energy available to the millions of other species by close to 10%.

In a bit of an understatement, Snow Barlow, an agriculture professor at the University of Melbourne, wrily remarked: "Here we are, just one species on the earth, and we're grabbing a quarter of the renewable resources … we're probably being a bit greedy." Given these new findings, scientists are cautioning against the increased use of biofuels due to the likely potential for further pressure on species and ecosystems. The hardest hit areas were mostly found in south Asia, where scientists estimate almost 63% of plant production is used or destroyed by humans. Not surprisingly, the analysis also emphasized the limited potential for a long-term, sustainable biofuel industry, citing projected energy consumption figures and the potential impact on the planet's remaining biodiversity.

Christopher Field, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, California, remarked that the findings were deeply disturbing and a rebuke to those hoping for the near-term establishment of a viable biofuel industry. "... one species is appropriating about a quarter of the productive activity of all the world's lands. With millions of species sharing the leftovers, it is hard to know how many will be squeezed out of the game. There simply isn't enough [biomass production] for us to solve the energy challenge of the 21st century with biofuels."

Via ::Guardian Unlimited: Humans use or abuse quarter of all energy from plants (newspaper), ::The Sydney Morning Herald: Human greed takes lion's share of solar energy (newspaper), ::ScienceNOW: Charting Greed for All Things Green (news website)

See also: ::Biofuel Plants Causing Air, Water and Soil Problems in Iowa, ::Which BioFuel Produces the Least NOx?

Related Content on