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Biofuels may threaten environment, U.N. warns

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Doomsday101, Jan 23, 2008.

  1. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- The world's rush to embrace biofuels is causing a spike in the price of corn and other crops and could worsen water shortages and force poor communities off their land, a U.N. official said Wednesday.

    Speaking at a regional forum on bioenergy, Regan Suzuki of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that biofuels are better for the environment than fossil fuels and boost energy security for many countries.

    However, she said those benefits must be weighed against the pitfalls -- many of which are just now emerging as countries convert millions of acres to palm oil, sugar cane and other crops used to make biofuels.

    "Biofuels have become a flash point through which a wide range of social and environmental issues are currently being played out in the media," Suzuki told delegates at the forum, sponsored by the U.N. and the Thai government.

    Foremost among the concerns is increased competition for agricultural land, which Suzuki warned has already caused a rise in corn prices in the United States and Mexico and could lead to food shortages in developing countries.

    She also said China and India could face worsening water shortages because biofuels require large amounts of water, while forests in Indonesia and Malaysia could face threats from the expansion of palm oil plantations.

    "Particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, land availability is a critical issue," Suzuki said. "There are clear comparative advantages for tropical and subtropical countries in growing biofuel feed stocks but it is often these same countries in which resource and land rights of vulnerable groups and protected forests are weakest."

    Initially, biofuels were held up as a panacea for countries struggling to cope with the rising cost of oil or those looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union, for example, plans to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with biofuels made from energy crops such as sugar cane and rapeseed oil by 2020.

    But in recent months, scientists, private agencies and even the British government have said biofuels could do more harm than good. Rather than protecting the environment, they say energy crops destroy natural forests that actually store carbon and thus are a key tool in the fight to reduce global warming.

    Some of those doubts were on display Wednesday at the U.N. forum, with experts saying many countries in Asia have rolled out plans to mandate biofuels for transport without weighing the potential risks.

    Thailand, for example, is considering delaying the introduction of diesel blended with 2 percent biofuel for two months until April because of palm oil shortages, while the Philippines is considering shelving a biofuels law over concerns about the negative environmental effects.

    India is facing criticism that its plans to plant 30 million acres of jatropha trees by 2012 for biofuel could force communities from their land and worsen deforestation. There are also concerns that it will be unable to find the 100 million acres of vacant land it needs to grow the shrub-like plants.

    Varghese Paul, a forest and biodiversity expert with the Energy and Resources Institute in India, said dependence on a single species is dangerous.

    "An outbreak of pests and diseases could wipe out entire plantations in one stroke," Paul said. E-mail to a friend

    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  2. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    Some good points. It really is dependent on where you are and what types of crops they are using. I think the use of corn is a bad idea. It is so hard on the land. Sugar cane in South American countries is much easier, but is not easy in the U.S.
  3. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    I think all alternatives will come with some down side I think many think there is a magic cure all and I don't buy that for a second.
  4. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Sure there will be problems with all fuels if we dig deep enough, however corn based ethanol is not really the best thing to strive for IMO.

    On a side note does anyone find it funny that it has cost us in many ways (milk as one example) with the drive towards corn based fuel while the government was paying farmers NOT to grow because we had too much.

    Just funny how things work, an funny is not always a good thing for the record.
  5. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    True. I'm just saying when Biofuels came out all of a sudden you have people claiming that was the solution without even looking at the downside. I'm all for reducing the need for oil however I think oil will not be fully replaced for a long time. I just hope people keep in mind nothing is a cure all be it Nuclear, Coal, solar or biofuels
  6. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    We agree in that aspect.

    However the idea, at least for now IMO, is to ween ourselves off the dependency of foreign fuel.

    If we have the problem of depending on foreign oil and environmental issues chances are we will never get both to where we would want them to be.

    However we will be better off in trying to work on a source that we can control and not a source that will eventually go out like oil.
  7. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed Zone Supporter

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    so we find new fuels to save the environment and now we're hurting it with our choices.

    THIS is why GW is crap until we have more info.
  8. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    It is not just an issue of GW IMO.

    It is a cost issue, it is also an issue of what fuels would work better from certain sources.

    Corn/ethanol is not really the best choice.
  9. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed Zone Supporter

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    overall i agree. but the headline "biofuels harm environment" is my target really. it's like surgeon general warnings. we've had so many they're pointless now. they carry as much weight as an "orange terrorist threat" does anymore. WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that living causes dying!"

    no matter what we do we're hurting ourselves according to someone. it just gets old.
  10. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    But at the same time I know old timers that were told that coal dust was good for you. We used to package cigarettes in army rations to the soldiers.

    Now everything is bad for seems to be the in thing, but there are times when things are ACTUALLY bad but in the past we said the were good.

    Who knows...so much BS to sort through anymore.

    Kind of goes back to boy who cried wolf type of thing.

    When you hear it so much you lose any sense of urgency or fear of it and that is sad because there are things we should really be doing but just figure it is another case of the boy crying wolf.

    Of course I may not be making much sense in my ranting mood today.:eek::
  11. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed Zone Supporter

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    which comes back to why i don't put much stock into GW or any current "Crisis". history has shown these moves to be false in time - yet we fall for them time and time again.

    evolution can be damn slow at times.
  12. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    But what does global warming have to do with dependency on foreign oil?
  13. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    :lmao2:
  14. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    Drilling in ANWR would solve that.
  15. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    So will coming up with alternative fuels. Both have pros and cons, but the key is getting away from foreign dependency. If there is a side effect that it helps global warming all the better, but that is not the main goal. At least in my eyes.
  16. arglebargle

    arglebargle Well-Known Member

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    Probably not. Pipe dreams of limitless oil....

    However, if we wait a couple of years, it'll get so warm there, we wont have to worry about screwing up the permafrost or otherwise interfering with the environment there, as it will all be messed up already! ;)
  17. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    But we could drill in ANWR while coming up with other fuel sources .... but some people will not allow that because it might bother the migrations of the blue billed queen doo doo bird. ;)

    If we drilled in ANWR until we came up with other VIABLE forms of fuel, we would not "need" the middle east at all.
  18. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    Yea ..... I'll think about how warm it is when it snows during easter here in east texas like it did last year.
  19. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    That was my point, but I probably could have phrased it better. No one thing is going to reduce our dependency on foreign oil especially mid-east oil. We are way behind on alternative fuels and that is a leadership problem. Not a Democrat or Republican problem, but both. They have had a chance to push for a reduction to foreign dependency for a long, long time and done nothing except bicker with each other.
  20. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed Zone Supporter

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    depends on who you talk to, but as i said - THIS is what i was referring to - the headline.

    Biofuels may threaten environment, U.N. warns

    coal does it, global cooling, exhaust from cars, hair spray and deoderants...

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