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Biofuels Are We Sure?

Updated on May 23, 2011

biofuels?

Biofuels are fuels produced from cellulosic biomass resources, such as corn and soybeans. Biofuels include ethanol, biodiesel, and methanol.

Those who support biofuel production tout the benefits such as cleaner air and perhaps the more appealing, freedom from dependence upon oil that comes from other countries.

Now don’t get me wrong, I value clean air but those who oppose biofuels, or at least the rapid adoption of them as a green technology, suggest that biofuels do not burn cleaner than regular gas; at least not sufficient enough to warrant wide scale adoption as a clean air technology.

The desire and need for clean air is not the only force behind the biofuel movement. Farmers across North America and elsewhere are having a difficult time earning a living and the growing of corn or soybeans for fuel production rather than food production is attractive.

Let’s face it if you were a farmer what would you rather grow a crop that did not make you a profit or made so little that you could barely pay the bills; or a crop that paid well and appeared to have an unlimited demand?

A sound bottom line is essential for a business to survive and thrive and farming is a business. So it is no surprise that many farmers are taking acres out of food production and putting it into fuel production.

Now from a consumer perspective, this is where things get complicated. We all want and need clean air; but the first question is will biofuels clean our air?

Until this question is answered without doubt we may be following a path that will be difficult to reverse.

We all want cheap and healthy food. The healthy part should be no problem; eat fresh foods and you are on the right path.

But cheap, the farmer needs to earn a living and one that is plentiful enough to pay the bills and feed the family just as you do. If the farmer cannot earn the money needed by selling food; then it is necessary to seek alternatives, such as growing fuel.

Food prices are rising; gas prices are rising; agriculture is a major user of fossil fuels which makes the two connected. Now, if we take farm land out of food production to grow fuel to lower our dependence upon foreign oil and thereby reduce the supply of food available but do not decrease the demand, in which direction will food prices go?

Arable land suitable for agriculture is already being lost to urban sprawl for example. If we lose anymore farm land n our quest for clean air and oil autonomy what will be the effect on our food supply? We may be exchanging one form of dependence for another and failing to clean the air at the same time.

The move to biofuels is not the economic or environmental silver bullet that many claim it to be; it may be a part of the response to local economic development and cleaner air but rushing in as we seem to be doing into uncharted territory is foolhardy and possibly dangerous.

BIOFUELS: Driving a Catastrophe

Biofuels Revolution

Cleaner Air

Comments

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  • C.S.Alexis profile image

    C.S.Alexis 

    10 years ago from NW Indiana

    Could be that it would be best to proceed with extreme caution. In the mean time try to encourage our youth more toward self sufficient lifestyles such as growing their own food or at least a large portion of it. The society we live in is wasteful and uneducated in basic survival skills. This needs to change, but there is no quick fix solution. Your hub is realistic. Thanks for employing some balanced ideas to this subject matter.

  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Hicks 

    10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    Bob - this is great. My father is involved in the effort towards plug-in electric hybrids (hence, my recent hub), and we've talked about the false hope that biofuels give some people that are eager to see us not be dependent on foreign oil. All of these recent hubs about technology, environment, etc. they give me great consternation!

  • Misha profile image

    Misha 

    10 years ago from DC Area

    Some serious problems for biofuel fans for sure. I was always kind of sceptical, but did not really look into this - and your hub is an eye opener. Thanks for the common sense injection :)

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    rapid public transit has possibilities that shouild be considered.

  • cgull8m profile image

    cgull8m 

    10 years ago from North Carolina

    They should have more Mass High Speed Transit systems. Biofuels will add more problems in the future.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, trade-offs are common but in the case of biofuel is the trade-off a good one?

  • WeddingConsultant profile image

    WeddingConsultant 

    10 years ago from DC Metro Area

    Bob, this was an eye-opening hub. The first video was really sad. What a shame that in order to gain something (biofuel) we have to lose something bigger (rain forests, animal's natural habitat, etc.).

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Public transport is a major step towards clean air.

  • The Indexer profile image

    John Welford 

    10 years ago from UK

    Bob, that's very interesting, especially the contrast between those who see biofuels as the answer and those who see them as the problem! We need to know what the true balance is between benefits and costs in environmental terms. We should also be looking much harder at developing truly green fuel sources, such as hydrogen fuel cells, and at ways of cutting down the need for motor fuels by travelling less and by encouraging public transport, especially in the US where public transport is almost a dirty word!

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