USA furthers Amazon destruction

It’s being hailed as being a historic agreement, but history will be judging this little pact rather harshly I believe; certainly when it comes to the environment.

The USA and Brazil have agreed to work closely to promote increased ethanol use in nations lying between Brazil and the United States.

So why is promoting the use of alternative fuel such as ethanol such a bad thing? Isn’t this after all an earth friendly, renewable fuel? Renewable fuel, yes (for a while); earth or human friendly; no – and it has nothing to do with emissions.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Brazil currently dedicates land area larger then Denmark to sugar cane farming; with the bulk of that sugar being used for ethanol production.

Brazil is also home to a large swathe of the Amazon rainforest, and it’s the Amazon that’s being cleared to allow for increased sugar cane growing and other forms of farming.

It takes a huge amount of plant material to generate commercial quantities of ethanol. In one study, it was estimated that the amount of grain needed to create a tank of fuel for an SUV was equivalent to feeding one person for a year. A single tank.

Fossil fuels are bad enough, but they are underground. Now we’re looking at generating enormous quanities of fuel above ground, spread comparatively thinly across the land.

I’m envisioning using Google Earth in years from now and seeing enormous chunks of land being cultivated just so we can fill our gas tanks to take a trip down the street. Humanity crammed into a corner, the rest paddocks and fields.

It’s just insane. For most people, the transport energy issue could be solved with electric cars powered by solar energy. A few solar panels on your roof; store the energy, plug your car in at night to recharge. Even plugging them directly into mains is viable; especially if the bulk of the electricity fed into the grid is from solar and wind farms.

In my opinion, there’s also something terribly wrong with diverting food crops to fuel when so many people on our planet are starving. Already there’s been price increases in everything from corn to beef due to crops being diverted to ethanol production. This is only the beginning.

For the biofuel industry to be responsible, I think it needs to observe these basic principles

– no food source should be used for fuel unless starvation in the world has been wiped out
– no land should be used for the production of fuel unless that land is contaminated or not fit for growing of food
– no more clearing of forests for the production of fuel

We are on the cusp of a global environmental disaster as it is – the biofuel industry may take us past the tipping point. Don’t let government or big business fool you – extensive use of ethanol will not save the environment, it will destroy it.


Soy and the Amazon