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An Interesting Coincidence?

February 22, 2008
The papers published in Science two weeks ago continue to make headlines, as a quick search of Google News will show. Also this week, oil reached the $100 per barrel mark.

Meanwhile, debate over the Science papers continues, and some truths are out there, as we said when we began this public forum.

Nathanael Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council notes the media have made rather simplistic assessments of the Science papers.Greene writes that the issues of land use raised by the Science articles have already been addressed through public policy. "Fortunately, we knew about these dynamics before yesterday, and we've won a preemptive victory in getting the dynamics written into the legislation in the form of the land-use safeguards and minimum lifecycle GHG standards." Greene's posting drew many comments worth reading.

Candace Wheeler, Technical Fellow of Research & Development at GM, notes that the issues raised by the Science articles have been addressed by the biofuel community. She writes on the blog: “It’s true: when we analyze biofuel pathways, we need to properly account for impacts of land use changes. No argument there. But the idea that this concept is being ignored just isn’t so.” Note especially the discussion surrounding Wheeler’s posting by Michael Wang and Bruce Dale.

Perhaps the media will take a fresh look at the issue. Angel Gonzalez of the Seattle Times posted the following on Feb. 21.
Biofuels have taken flak in recent studies that claim running cars on Midwestern grain and Malaysian palm oil creates more greenhouse gases than created by the reviled fossil fuels. But what about fuels made out of agricultural waste, combined with high-yielding biotech-enhanced crops exclusively dedicated to energy?

"The next generation of dedicated energy crops shows tremendous potential of improving the greenhouse gas profile of agriculture," said Matt Carr, an official with the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington during a conference call today to discuss biofuels."