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The Cost of the Biofuel Boom: Destroying Indonesia’s Forests
The clearing of Indonesia’s rainforest for palm oil plantations is having profound effects – threatening endangered species, upending the lives of indigenous people, and releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
... Not long ago, biofuels were billed as a green dream come true, a way to burn less fossil fuel and shrink our carbon footprint. But today, mounting evidence indicates that producing biofuels — particularly those derived from food crops such as corn and oil palm — may be doing considerably more harm to the planet than good, actually increasing greenhouse gas emissions and driving up food prices worldwide.
Some of the most devastating costs of the biofuel revolution are on display in Indonesia, where massive clearing of tropical forests for oil palm plantations has caused staggering environmental damage and tremendous loss of biodiversity. Only the Amazon and Africa’s Congo basin harbor more tropical forests than Indonesia, but the reality today is that all three regions are seeing their rain forests disappear at an alarming rate. And in the Amazon and Indonesia, growing world demand for food and biofuel is now driving much of the damage.
A flurry of scientific field work and environmental reports have linked the spread of oil palm plantations in Indonesia to the decimation of rain forests, increased conflict between logging and oil palm interests and rural and indigenous people, and massive CO2 emissions through logging, burning, and the draining of carbon-rich peat lands. And most of the trouble, as I learned on a recent visit, is playing out in the Indonesian lowland rain forests on Sumatra and Borneo, an ecosystem long regarded as a global hotspot for rare and endemic species — but perhaps not for much longer.
Tom Knudson writes about natural resources and the environment for the Sacramento Bee. Over the years, his reporting has been singled out for numerous journalistic honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes and a Reuters-I.U.C.N. Global Environmental Media Award
(19 January 2009)
Advice to Pres. Obama: go for wind power, seriously
Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
There is no silver bullet to either the financial crisis, the economic crisis, the housing crisis, the industrial crisis, the jobs crisis or the energy crisis we're in right now. But there is one sector of activity which can help in every single one of these: wind power.
... Together with plans towards energy savings (and in particular energy efficiency improvements in the existing housing stock, a policy that will employ construction workers and help reduce energy use with no pain for consumers), boosting wind should be a no-brainer: it works, it costs very little, and it creates a sustainable infrastructure for the future.
(21 January 2009)
Open Letter on Biofuels
Gail Tverberg, The Oil Drum
Now is the time when everyone is writing letters to the new Obama administration. It seems like it might be worthwhile discussing a letter written by a group of organizations warning of the dangers of biofuels. The letter can be found at the site of the Global Justice Ecology Project. The statement on the website about this letter says:
Corn and sugar based agrofuels have already come under extreme scrutiny due to their documented contribution to the food crisis, with venture capital investment in these so-called 'first generation biofuels' dropping to zero. The open letter exposes the further problems that will result from the so-called 'second generation' of agrofuels. These problems range from wholesale destruction of the world's rainforests and other sensitive forests, to the forced displacement of entire communities to make way for agrofuel expansion, and the biosafety risks of gambling on novel technologies like Synthetic Biology and genetically engineered trees. The letter also makes clear that agrofuels made from inedible plant feedstocks (cellulosic fuels) will continue to exacerbate the food crisis by monopolizing additional agricultural lands for the growing of agrofuel crops such as grasses and trees, instead of food crops.
(Editors note: Please note that this letter is for discussion purposes. The Oil Drum does not make an endorsement of particular policies ...
(21 January 2009)
Crunching Electricity Demand With Smart Grids
Big Gav, Peak Energy
A round-up of articles on smart grids.
(21 January 2009)
EntropyPawsed Solar Electric System
Frank Gifford, EntropyPawsed
Our EntropyPawsed cabin solar electric system is small and simple, yet the learning curve for us was considerable. When designing the remodeling and finishing of our cabin, we incorporated solar electric into the design. Our theme of simple and low energy included a desire to be able to do most of the work ourselves...
...Here are the most important lessons learned through our relationship with PV:
(20 January 2009)