Biofuels Produced at the Expense of Tropical Forests Are No Victory: Bill Clinton Tells Brazil

brazil deforestation for agriculture photo

The last remains of what used to be forest are burned off. Photo: Leo Freitas via flickr.

I guess when you're a former US president with a well-respected eponymous humanitarian foundation you can really lay into a touchy subject without much mincing of words. The example: Bill Clinton talking to Brazil on how being a world leader in ethanol production is no victory if it is coupled with escalating carbon emissions from deforestation:Speaking at the Ethanol Summit 2009, Clinton was quoted as saying by Reuters,

What people are worried about Brazil is not whether you have the most efficient biofuel in the world...everybody knows that is true. But the world would say if we let Brazil help us solve our problem at the price of more rainforest destruction, have we really gained anything? That's what you have to answer.

Clinton also pointed out that though Brazil has made great strides in renewable energy, 75% of its greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and agriculture. When these are included in the country's total, Brazil rises to being the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Cattle Not Fuels Main Deforestation Source in Brazil
Granted, most of that deforestation in Brazil is being caused now not by biofuel production (at least not directly) but by expansion of cattle ranches for the global beef and leather trade, but Clinton's point is entirely valid in the broad stroke.

Deforestation a Much Larger Issue Than Fossil Fuels in Many Places
And it would be even more poignant had he been speaking about production of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, where due to greenhouse gas emissions associated with land conversion from rainforest to plantations, the emissions from the fuel made from these crops can be nearly 10 times as much as from conventional fossil fuels.

Including these in the national total for Indonesia brings them into the top five of global greenhouse gas emitters, even though without them they're not even in the top 15.

via: Reuters
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