Science Daily reported today on a tremendously important opinion piece that demolishes the environmental credentials of biofuels as being carbon neutral. If applied by policymakers, it would result in transferring funding for the incentives for biofuel production over to the conservation and restoration of natural landscapes.
U.S. national policy has strongly incentivized ethanol production, for example, due to the political power of the Corn Belt. Authors DeCicco and Schlesinger point out that biofuels create a “carbon debt” because burning them generates CO2 in the present, which isn’t sequestered by plants for decades.
To reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, DeCicco and Schlesinger point out, requires increasing the rate at which trees and other plants remove it from the air. Although they don’t rule out possible breakthroughs in algae or other futuristic bioenergy options, they say that for now the best biologically based carbon dioxide reduction strategy is to protect and restore carbon-rich natural ecosystems … avoiding deforestation and reforesting harvested areas.”