Land Use and Climate Change IV

Ethanol will not save us:

These plant-based fuels were originally billed as better than fossil fuels because the carbon released when they were burned was balanced by the carbon absorbed when the plants grew. But even that equation proved overly simplistic because the process of turning plants into fuels causes its own emissions — for refining and transport, for example.

The clearance of grassland releases 93 times the amount of greenhouse gas that would be saved by the fuel made annually on that land, said Joseph Fargione, lead author of the second paper, and a scientist at the Nature Conservancy. “So for the next 93 years you’re making climate change worse, just at the time when we need to be bringing down carbon emissions.”

So much for the magic pill.

To review: biofuels don’t decrease global warming, “clean coal” doesn’t really work, and nuclear energy is politically problematic. So can we please start focusing on conservation now?

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