Two new studies cast doubt on whether ethanol and other biofuels are an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels in addressing climate change. The studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, for the first time take into account the environmental costs of worldwide pressure to convert natural areas to cropland to grow corn and other plants for biofuels.
Clearing the land by burning or plowing releases greenhouse gases, as do refinement and transportation of the fuel. Moreover, the loss of natural areas, whether rain forest or scrubland, makes the land less able to absorb carbon.
â€œWhen you take this into account, most of the biofuel that people are using or planning to use would probably increase greenhouse gases substantially,â€ said Timothy Searchinger of Princeton University, lead author of one of the studies.
Time to take a hard look at all those ethanol subsidies in the farm bill.