Coal and oil are made from plants and animals that died millions of years ago when the atmosphere contained abundant carbon dioxide plant food. They are now very concentrated forms of energy which can be extracted from very small areas of land. Burning these natural hydro-carbons returns CO2 and fresh water to the atmosphere thus greatly assisting global plant growth. If we are lucky these extra gases in the atmosphere may also slightly delay the start of Earth’s next cooling cycle, but this looks unlikely.
Ethanol and biodiesel are made from plants growing now – sugar cane, beets, palm oil and grains. Growing these crops requires large areas of land and valuable fresh water for irrigation.
Growing bio-fuel crops extracts CO2 from the atmosphere but burning them quickly puts it back. This is a zero-sum game that does nothing positive for the environment or the climate.
Coal and oil are thus more enviro-friendly than biofuels. It is environmental desecration to lock-the-gate on coal, oil and gas while supporting policies that waste land, food crops and water for motor fuels.
Speculators should be free to make biofuels but these should not be subsidised or mandated.
By Viv Forbes