Meet the Press (Or at least their editorial boards)

Recently two editorials were written by the NY Times and Washington Post concerning biofuels in which the recent Science papers were referred to.

According to the NY Times,

“The studies’ authors say that some ethanol sources wood wastes, or grasses planted on previously degraded land — could yield net benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Still, they are one more reminder that regulators will have to design the tightest possible standards for ethanol production. And Congress, which is responsible for this huge mandate, will have to ensure that they do.”

It is true that biofuels are no silver bullet, but they are part of the climate change solution. However, it is critical that in implementing these new climate change standards for biofuels that we not deny the country a powerful tool to mitigate climate change.

The editorial from the Washington Post, is quick to jump and say,

biofuels are not a silver bullet in the battle against global warming. In fact they could make things worse.”

At best this is jumping the gun, at worst it’s fear mongering. Assertations that U.S. biofuel production will result in rainforest destruction and starvation in underdeveloped countries present a nightmare “what if” scenario. There is an alternative and far more likely scenario that biotechnology can help produce cost effective biofuels from crop residues and energy crops, while simultaneously helping all countries increase crop yields to meet needs for food, animal feed and fuel.

The Truth is Out There

The journal Science published two papers:

in their online, early publication ScienceXpress that suggest that the production and use of biofuels may be worse for climate change than gasoline. The study and papers argue that cultivating more land to produce biofuels will create a “carbon debt” that has to be repaid. The conclusion they draw is that it is better to continue to use petroleum for transportation fuel. A careful and balanced analysis suggests that such a sweeping statement is not justified by the evidence. Much has been made of these papers both in the conventional media and in the blog world. We hope that by launching this space for conversation that we can begin to get at the truth. Drop in and let us know what you think.