Friday, June 13, 2008

Biofuels - promise collides with reality

Biofuels - Another False Start in State's Climate Strategy The US is racing to dramatically increase the use of ethanol and other biofuels in order to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. The United States government and most, if not all, states are increasing requirements and incentives to increase the use of ethanol, biodiesel and other bio fuels. What is the record? Are greenhouse gases being reduced? Is the use of imported oil being reduced? What is the impact of diverting corn from food and animal feed to generating ethanol? Todd Myer of The Washington Policy Institute has an op-ed in the Tacoma News-Tribune
After only a couple of years, the U.S. strategy on biofuels and climate change has a clear record: dramatically higher food prices and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Government programs have encouraged farmers to use marginal land to produce fuel crops, increasing carbon dioxide emissions in the process, in an effort to receive subsidies or the high prices such crops now fetch due to government mandates. Now, this state is poised to follow those damaging policy footsteps. Washington legislators of both parties saw biofuel mandates and subsidies as a way to send taxpayer dollars to farming communities and to prove to environmental activists that they were serious about climate change.
Now that the damage caused by those policies is obvious, Washington politicians should re-examine their policies and follow a strategy that harnesses the promise of biofuels without creating the truly damaging unintended consequences we are seeing. In 2006, the Legislature passed a series of laws designed to promote biofuel production. This year, two percent of all diesel and gasoline sold in the state must contain biofuels. Those numbers can rise to five percent for diesel and 10 percent for gasoline if the governor determines Washington has the capacity to produce part of that amount.
The negative side effects of requiring ethanol are appearing already. What is the rush? We can study the proposals to anticipate the side effects. And to estimate the value versus the cost of these changes. What do you think? Leave a comment.

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