Once upon a time, the world seemed to have so much hope for biofuels.
Now, ethanol demand is driving corn prices upwards, causing chaos in countries such as Mexico, threatening the ability of many people to afford food.
Biodiesel has turned into a huge threat to Asia's tropical rainforests, critical components of the planet's capacity to absorb CO2, and the only natural habitat of the world's 50,000-60,000 remaining orangutans. Turns out that these rainforests are being razed to plant palm oil plantations for biofuels (and other human products).
As the BBC and famed primate expert, Dr. Richard Leaky detail, a sad result is to push the existence of great apes such as the orangutan to the brink of real trouble.
A possible solution in the case of biodiesel: use sustainably produced palm oil - something already practiced by companies like Cadbury-Schweppes, Unilever, and the Body Shop.
Another suggestion: tell your local car dealer you're really not impressed with the mileage of the vehicles they're offering, and you want better. That's what I've been finding myself doing as I search for a new vehicle. If I could get a plug-in hybrid diesel (which I'd run on recycled vegetable oil), I'd be one happy camper! I mean, whatever happened to the Toyota ES3 - a 4 seat hybrid diesel car that gets 104 mpg, even without the plug-in component (and that was back in 2001!)?
We know they CAN do it (but are just waiting for the market to stop buying gas guzzlers and start demanding high efficiency before they respond - they'll do as the market dictates, automakers say. So for the record, I'm all for government incentives to help make it financially favorable for them to do so).
The result would be to not only dramatically reduce demand for gasoline and biodiesel, pressure on rainforests, and our greenhouse gas emissions, but also to save each of us thousands of dollars a year in gas costs. I know I sure could use that money right about now!