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Posts Tagged ‘land use’

cornsitution

article from grist:
by TOM PHILPOTT
What do industrially produced meat and corn-based ethanol have in common?

Well, they both thrive on the assumption that it’s good idea to devote vast swaths of land to an incredibly resource-intensive crop—corn—and then run that crop through an energy-sucking process to create a product of dubious value.

And .. they both got tagged as major drivers of climate change this past week.

Ethanol took the harder blow of the two, I think. It came wrapped in the Oct. 23 issue of Science. In a concise and devastating “policy forum” piece, a team of authors led by University of Minnesota researcher Tim Searchinger fingered a gaping defect in existing European and pending U.S. climate policy: biofuel gets treated as carbon-neutral, ignoring carbon emissions from land-use change. According to the paper ($ub req’d),  the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union’s cap-and-trade law, and the final version of Waxman-Markey (the House climate bill that passed over the summer) all contain the a “far-reaching but fixable flaw”:

[They] does not count CO2 emitted from tailpipes and smokestacks when bioenergy is being used, but it also does not count changes in emissions from land use when biomass for energy is harvested or grown. This accounting erroneously treats all bioenergy as carbon neutral regardless of the source of the biomass, which may cause large differences in net emissions. For example, the clearing of long-established forests to burn wood or to grow energy crops is counted as a 100% reduction in energy emissions despite causing large releases of carbon.

Or, as Searchinger put it to a Wall Street Journal reporter, “Literally, in theory, if you chopped up the Amazon, turned it into a parking lot, and burned the wood in a power plant, that would be treated as a carbon-emissions reduction strategy.”
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