Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Biofuels Speed Global Warming

Reuters reported Monday on the latest research in biofuels.

Most crops grown in the U.S. and Europe to make "green'' transport fuels actually speed up global warming because of industrial farming methods, says a report by Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul J. Crutzen.

The findings could spell particular concern for alternative fuels derived from canola, used in Europe, which the study concluded could produce up to 70 per cent more planet-warming greenhouse gases than conventional diesel.

Biofuels are derived from plants that absorb the planet-warming greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as they grow, and so are meant as a climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels.

But the new study shows that some biofuels actually release more greenhouse gases than they save, because of the fertilizer used in modern farming practices.

The problem greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, is more famous as the dentists' anesthetic "laughing gas,'' and is about 300 times more insulating than the commonest man-made greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

"The nitrous-oxide emission on its own can cancel out the overall benefit,'' co-author Keith Smith said in an interview.

The problem with all the climate micromanagers is that life on the planet is more complicated than one little thing. As with most attempts at fixing a problem--especially governmental attempts--the "fix" either breaks the thing even further, or it breaks something else, and in the end you're worse off than when you started.

So breathe easy. Fill the tank from the gas pump, and don't worry about biofuels fixing global warming.

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