Carbon Footprint of Brazilian Soybeans


Driver preparing dinner: Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

When I read a story like this I wonder why we even bother. It seems that China can't grow enough soybeans to feed itself as internal demand for pork, poultry and beef increases, and the main source of soybean imports, the US, is getting priced out of the market as the farmers all switch to corn, so it has turned to Brazil where land is cheap and soybeans still plentiful.Except there are no rails or rivers between the coast and the farmland, so diesel powered trucks carrying 47 tons each make 256,000 trips per year on the slow potholed 683 mile road to the ocean, at a cost of $88 per ton compared to $15 per ton by rail in America. Based on my calculations shown in the spreadsheet below the fold, that creates seventeen thousand pounds of carbon dioxide per truck per trip, over two million tons of carbon dioxide per year, and almost two hundred million gallons of diesel fuel consumed. And that is assuming decent fuel efficiency (it is a potholed, slow journey) and only accounts for driving one way.

All because China would rather grow higher valued products like bamboo for export and US farmers would rather cash in on the ethanol craze and grow corn instead of soybeans. It is nuts. ::New York Times


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