Wednesday, May 09, 2007

URGENT - Spread the Truth About Biofuels

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, has passed through his committee a bill that would require an annual production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels per year by 2022. This bill is on course to be the backbone of major energy legislation that will come to a vote on the Senate floor in early June.

Tell your senators to overhaul or scrap this bill.

What?!? But aren't biofuels an alternative to fossil fuels -- and part of the answer to energy security? Shouldn't an environmental group like Friends of the Earth be backing such initiatives?

The truth is that biofuels can be a good alternative to oil and coal, and Friends of the Earth is excited about the opportunities offered by the production of some biofuels. But science matters, and science tells us that not all biofuels are created equal.

Sen. Bingaman's bill would mandate production of up to 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol -- equivalent to half the corn currently grown in the entire United States. This is not a clean prospect.

Growing and processing this much corn for fuel would:
  • Create over 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution
  • Lead to the ecologically damaging conversion of millions of acres of land
  • Increase non-sustainable agriculture, erosion, pesticide use and fertilizer use
  • Require 60 billion gallons of water
  • Drive the price of corn through the roof, effectively taking it out of the diet of many of the world's poor (the amount of corn it would take to fill one 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year!)

Perhaps most discouraging, recent reports suggest the burning of corn ethanol generates as much or more pollution as the burning of gasoline.

Senators need to know there are promising biofuel crops out there -- including switchgrass and even algae -- that can be converted to fuel with less intensive use of resources and result in cleaner final products. Like many things, the devil is in the details, and when it comes to biofuels the Senate must pay attention to those details.

Our activists in states with a senator serving on Bingaman's committee weighed in before this bill passed out of committee, and their pressure helped Friends of the Earth staff negotiate some important improvements -- including mandates for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses for biofuels produced in newly built factories. But this bill is still far too bad to support. Tell both of your senators that Sen. Bingaman's bill, as written, should not be the foundation for major energy legislation.

To find out more about why this legislation is bad, check out our fact sheet.

- Friends of the Earth

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