Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Biofuel plantations in tropical forests are not worth it

A new study in the journal Conservation Biology claims that conserving tropical forests is more effective than converting them to biofuel production.

"It's a huge contradiction to clear tropical rain forests to grow crops for so-called 'environmentally friendly' fuels," said co-author Faizal Parish of the Global Environment Center, Malaysia. "This is not only an issue in South East Asia — in Latin America forests are being cleared for soy production which is even less efficient at biofuel production compared to oil palm. Reducing deforestation is a much more effective way for countries to reduce climate change while also meeting their obligations to protect biodiversity."

Biofuel production in already deforested and otherwise depleted lands, OK. Cutting trees to plant crops for biofuels, not. Seems pretty intuitive. So why is it happening? Perverse economic incentives.

Read about it here at ENN.


Mandy Isaac said...

I would assume that the main reason that this continues to happen is that many people in Latin America have high interest rates which means they value money today more than money tomorrow due to their poverty levels. They can't be as concerned about the world environment as they are about feeding their family for the night. I'm sure there is much more that goes into it, but that is the most strikingly obvious to me.

BrandonHedrick said...

This is not really about the environment. They are simply producing biofuel to be profitable. While biofuels are not very efficient, they were very profitable until energy prices fell. This is a way for developing and third-world countries to enter into global economic markets. Larger wealthier countries have an endless thirst for energy, and these countries are willing to sacrifice their natural resources to collect that money.

In most of these countries, the future has not been looked at, it simply the present value of the land, energy, or forest products that they are looking at. Also, we cannot forget that U.S. and European countries are the primary investors in large agricultural productions in South America. Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil are major agricultural exporters.

sarah said...

Along with the benefits of producing crops for biofuel production (which is in high demand by developed, wealthy nations), the third world countries will also have profits associated with timber sales and sales of other natural resources withing the clear cut area. It is a win-win situation economically for those countries- they can sell the timber and sell the crops harvested for biofuels. In the present, it is a way to economically supply for the population, but in the future, it is a sure way to damage the environment.
Sarah Musten