Thursday, May 31, 2007

Biofuels Now Part of Climate Change Problem

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!

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled upon this blog, while doing a google search for the Toyota ES3. I couldn't agree with you more in regards to that car. I'd even take it a step further though, and say what happened to the Renault VESTA 2, which was also a four-seater that could achieve 100 mpg? That car was developed in 1981. The technology to build 100 mpg cars has obviously been around for some time.

    Some people know we CAN do it, but as I've read through many other blogs, I find many readers leaving comments questioning whether it is even possible. If the general public knew it were possible, they'd certainly be demanding this type of car now.

    I think the X Prize is a wonderful idea, but it confuses me, because as you already know, a 100 mpg car has already been designed and built. I hardly see the point in paying a 10 million dollar prize for designing something that already exists.

    You say you've simply expressed dissatisfaction in the current crop of cars to the dealers themselves. I've been struggling to find out though, what else can be done? How do we as consumers really demand a change? And how do we make everyone else aware that driving a 100 mpg car is not some far-off, futuristic, utopian dream?