A personal opinion
Conservation of energy, economy, and environment; this is what a good government looks forward to and see secured in its country. And who does not want to wake up one day and see the environment clean and green? Unfortunately, the prospect – if we will look at it realistically – is far from happening in our day and generation. What we have created out of this supposed to be perfect habitat for all species, including humankind, is a deteriorating planet in need of preservation. This is the price of what we call progress. In pursuit of advancement, we find ourselves in the midst of degeneration. Thus, the cry for the earth’s conservation.
Although, more things can be said for why our government is pushing for an expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard, some important things relevant to our existence need to be addressed and understood. Granted, that we need not be too dependent on the Middle East’s supply of oil; besides, it’s a given that we need a more hygienic atmosphere and cost-effective fuel. Nevertheless, vital questions have to be asked before plunging headlong to the alluring promise of biofuel use and its program. What are the unseen consequences of massive ethanol production? What are the effects so far in ecology and economy of this adaptation to biofuels?
What roles have governments played in this campaign to shift to biofuels? Which biofuels, if these are indeed viable, are the right ones to develop? These questions, if addressed properly, are crucial and may contribute a lot to the government’s policy on biofuels (Renewable Fuel Standard). Discussion ~ A Case for Biofuel. The use of biofuels has quickly become popular because they are derived from plants. As such, while grown they (the plants source for biofuels) absorb carbon in the air and also release it when burned. The very nature and life cycle of producing biofuel seem to project an environmental-friendly outlook.
President Bush was urged in 2004 by at least 30 state governors to expand his program and the support the government is giving for the production of ethanol (Avery, 2006). The proposal of these governors was optimistic. It forecasts reduction of fuel prices, enhancing security in national power/energy, and can generate multiple jobs and thus accelerate economy in rural areas (Avery, 2006). The scheme was indeed a roadmap to solving most of the nation’s crises. There are many proponents for renewable energy that exert much pressure on the government to shift from using the conventional petroleum gas to ethanol.
Becky Stillman, an advocate of ethanol use was very optimistic and asserted that enough biofuel can be produced in Indiana alone. She projected “Hoosier farmers” capacity to yield “1 billion gallons” of biofuels. She further calculated a “doubling of Indiana’s pork production”. Sun Microsystems’ co-founder, Vinod Khosla expressed his confidence when he stated with absolute certainty his hopes for ethanol production. He believes that the government can make use of the already agricultural land and needs not convert nor change food production in order to produce enough ethanol.
He claimed that the majority of petroleum use in cars and light trucks can be switched to ethanol. Because proponents of biofuels are absolutely convinced of its gains, Senator Hilary Clinton (one of its advocates) pushed for a speedier stride in terms of the government’s support. ~ A Case against Biofuel. The big promise that plant-produced oil holds probably is the main reason why President Bush, in his 2007 State of the Union Address, has called for a broader expansion of the government’s program on the use of biofuels.
The program has been running for some time now and is gaining more momentum especially that the President has backed it up. If last year’s requirement of plant-produced oil for US fuel makers was four billion gallons, the new plan as expressed in the President’s State of the Union Address will definitely increase the requirement and would mean huge increase in budget. Let’s consider the odds against the massive production of biofuels, which I firmly believe tips the scales and convincingly points to the need to seriously reconsider what this country is embarking into.
As in the pro side of the issue, there are also advocates campaigning against biofuels, and they appear to have a stronger case. For example, Republican Senator John McCain is on the opposite side and has spoken intelligently on the issue. He pointed out clearly the negative repercussions of ethanol production. In the Decade of the 80s, he said, government subsidies for ethanol production were originally meant to help bolster the corn farmers’ struggling industry. But instead of contributing to the overall welfare of America’s agriculture, the large subsidies have incurred wide ranged harm on other agricultural businesses.
In order for the beef and dairy farmers to raise a decent profit, they would have to jack up on the prices of meat and milk; this is to compensate for expenses sustained for the higher price of feed corn while raising beef and dairy products. In short, the whole process is at the expense of the rank and file consumers. Imagine those who will experience the bulk of the impact? Not the rich and powerful definitely, unless the subject is all about gains or profits; but the grassroots, those who, in the end will not be able to fend for themselves that much in terms of financial capability.
The overall effect of these subsidies can be seen in the resulting high costs of agricultural products. Senator John McCain stated that “ethanol is an inefficient, expensive fuel. ” On a larger scale, the unintended consequences of massive biofuel production can be seen in its effects on some of the countries in Southeast Asia, more particularly, Malaysia. Because of strong European demand, Malaysia’s export of palm oil has generated huge monetary income of 9 billion dollars last year.
Looking at the surface, the prospect of generating such enormous amount of profit is certainly appealing. This optimistic outlook when juxtaposed with results of scientific investigation regarding palm oil production is not really utopic or ideal. Because of the rising demand of palm oil in Europe, Malaysian government has allowed for the clearing of vast tracts of their rainforest to convert them into palm tree plantation. Along with this, is the excessive use of chemical fertilizer. The expanding need for palm plantation has caused for the burning of peatlands to accommodate more space needed.
This practice is responsible for the huge amounts of carbon emissions in the skies. What’s the big deal about it? According to studies, Indonesia is now ranked the world’s third-leading source (3rd only to U. S. and China) of carbon emissions and is believed to be contributory to the feared global warming . Considering these facts, the full-of-promise prospect of biofuel use has become a frightening idea. It’s not without bad repercussions. In the U. S. alone, enough has been observed to make us think more on the issue.
The government has a big role in this shift to biofuels. For one thing, our government’s leadership is like a ship’s rudder that determines the course of our nation. What the government sanctions, the populace approve. If we will not stop at this point and heed those on the opposite end (those who are against the massive production of biofuels), we might wake up one day reaping the consequences of our bad choice. The campaign for the use of biofuels needs additional and patient study.
Let’s allow our scientists to probe further on the issue and consider carefully the benefits and losses. Conclusion It was quite coincidental that I came across the topic on this other side of the biofuel issue and although much research will have to be done as of yet in order to attain a more balanced and scientific information, certainly, what we have here is truly, amazingly, real conversational piece. Just bring this up especially when some of your “more intellectual” friends or relatives are around, and you’ll realize that you have just stumbled into what may be termed as a “pricey topic.
” The full consequences of a massive shift to biofuels in the future may not yet be in our full view. The arguments for and against it are all available to us. I think, not just to play it safe, for the time being, it’s still safe to use conventional petroleum gas while further study on biofuels is still ongoing.
- Avery, Dennis, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Sept. 21, 2006.
- Rosenthal, Elizabeth. Accessed August 31, 2007 <www. nytimes. com/2007/01/31>