April 14, 2009
Massive Carbon Dioxide Release From Clearing Rain Forests

Palm oil plantations used to make biodiesel fuel make the carbon dioxide emissions problem worse, not better. The greenies who support biodiesel from palm oil help wipe out species and melt polar ice. Efficiently killing two birds with one stone.

April 14, 2009 – A new study finds that it will take more than 75 years for the carbon emissions saved through the use of biofuels to compensate for the carbon lost when biofuel plantations are established on forestlands. If the original habitat was peatland, carbon balance would take more than 600 years. The study appears in Conservation Biology.

The oil palm, increasingly used as a source for biofuel, has replaced soybean as the world’s most traded oilseed crop. Global production of palm oil has increased exponentially over the past 40 years. In 2006, 85 percent of the global palm-oil crop was produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, countries whose combined annual tropical forest loss is around 20,000 square kilometers.

Conversion of forest to oil palm also results in significant impoverishment of both plant and animal communities. Other tropical crops suitable for biofuel use, like soybean, sugar cane and jatropha, are all likely to have similar impacts on climate and biodiversity.

“Biofuels are a bad deal for forests, wildlife and the climate if they replace tropical rain forests,” says research scientist Finn Danielsen, lead author of the study. “In fact, they hasten climate change by removing one of the world’s most efficient carbon storage tools, intact tropical rain forests.”

The European Union should ban the import of biodiesel made from palm oil. Hello, anyone home?

This isn't hard to figure out.

Tropical forests contain more than half of the Earth’s terrestrial species. They also store around 46 percent of the world’s living terrestrial carbon, and 25 percent of total net global carbon emissions may stem from deforestation. There is therefore an inherent contradiction in any strategy to clear tropical forest to grow crops for so-called carbon-neutral fuels.

Old growth forests contain far more biomass than whatever grows up in their place after they are destroyed.

We already have a huge problem with habitat loss due to population growth and industrialization. Why make it even worse with biomass fuels?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 April 14 10:10 PM  Energy Biomass

Greg said at April 15, 2009 6:17 PM:

The environmentalists are crazy not only to the extent that the means they employ not only damage the people they pretend to care about ("We want people to be able to breathe clean air; be able to eat fish free from poison; to save our children from catastrophic climate change"). They defeat their own purpose of keeping nature intact.
Palm oil example is very good; what's going on around Mojave desert solar plants is also indicative.
So, they are crazy, period. They are hostile to reason.
As to EU, it shouldn't ban anything. It just shouldn't subsidize specific products - it'll save resources, both human and natural.

The Last of the Rational Humans said at April 15, 2009 10:43 PM:

But none of this is true. These studies are hopeless pieces of poor science. Purely based on photosynthetic surface area the new crops HAVE TO BE CARBON SINKS.

Randall Parker said at April 15, 2009 10:54 PM:

If you want to be rational then actually be rational.

Plant surface area getting hit by photons isn't the correct measure of how much carbon is getting tied up. Compare a grass lawn with a rain forest. They can have equal surface areas but the rain forest will contain orders of magnitude more carbon per equal area.

You cut down the rain forest and burn and let decay that which was there. That releases huge amounts of CO2. If the new plants do not contain as much biomass per acre then there's a big net shift of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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