Friday, February 8, 2008

Unintended Consequences

I don’t normally want to do more than one post per day, but this breaking news is also a perfect example of why we need accurate price signals.

It has long been known that corn-based ethanol is a very inefficient way of producing fuel, and that by raising the price of corn (and other foods which could be grown on the same ground) contributes to starvation in developing countries. (See for example The motivation for corn ethanol was always political, to reward the farm lobby.

But yesterday there was news of two new studies published online in Science magazine which take all this into account and concludes that the overall effect of corn ethanol production is actually counterproductive, i.e. it adds about twice as much GHG to the atmosphere than using gasoline. The food taken out of the supply system for ethanol production needs to get replaced, and the way it gets replaced is largely by deforestation.

1 comment:

RosInSheffield said...

I understand the main cause of deforestation in the Amazon these days is for biofuels. It would be ironic if it weren't tragic.
The only step we can all be sure of is to use less fuel. And that means using/buying less "stuff" because all that stuff needs fuel to manufacture and transport.