The ethanol industry isn’t the only group up in arms about pervasive negative reporting on biofuels (see yesterday’s post: Ethanol Industry: Jobs Are Better Than Food?).
Two soybean growers’ groups have suspended $1.5 million in funding from the University of Minnesota, due to research showing that biofuels could worsen global warming:
The study, by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman and others, said that dedicating huge amounts of land to grow corn, soybeans, sugarcane and other food crops for fuel could drastically change the landscape and worsen global warming. Farmers in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and other countries will need to clear forests, grasslands and peat lands on a massive scale to grow more of those crops, according to the research, unleashing far more carbon dioxide from natural vegetation than is saved by the lower emissions of the biofuels.
Is anyone really surprised about this finding? Suspension of the funds appears to be only temporary, until the groups have a chance to meet with the Dean of agricultural science. Jim Palmer, the executive director of the two soybean groups, summed up the situation: “The university hurt the farmers’ feelings, OK? That’s probably the best way to say it.”
The ethanol industry seems to be on the warpath against bad press (maybe that’s just my impression), which it’s been continuously mired in over increasing food prices, changing land-use patterns, and the questionable environmental benefits of grain-based fuel. As I mentioned last week (Ethanol Industry Pays Off Subsidies, Boosts U.S. Economy), business is booming, and this has potentially emboldened or intensified the pro-ethanol lobby.
He calls the food-vs-fuel debate a “fallacy” that assumes “farmers are incapable of supplying the growing needs for food, fiber and fuel.” Besides, he said, biorefiners only need the starch in feedstocks; the protein provided 14 million metric tons of livestock feed last year.