Are Biofuels the Problem or the Cure?

Are Biofuels the Problem or the Cure?

Two reports in the journal Science find biofuels cause more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fuels when the effect of land changes are considered, as reported  Friday, February 8, 2008, in the New York Times. No one expected biofuels to be a panacea that would ease all fear of global warming, but could they actually make it worse?
 
The studies, published in the journal Science, take into account the effect of the conversion of natural land to cropland to support biofuel production. Cropland that is used for production of biofuels is either cropland that is no longer being used for food crops or land that was previously undisturbed. Even if a biofuels crop merely replaces a food crop, it indirectly increases the destruction of natural land by forcing the food crops to be grown elsewhere. Cropland absorbs less carbon than undisturbed natural land, whether a rainforest or a grassland.
 
Adding the amount of carbon released from destruction of natural ecosystems to the loss of such natural land, which acts as a sponge to absorb carbon in the atmosphere, results in a much higher cost in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought for biofuels. Instead of making the problem of greenhouse gases better, growing crops for biofuels seems to be making it worse.
 
Do these studies mean that biofuels should be abandoned as an alternative energy source to traditional fuels? Or do the studies show us that if we are going to take into account all the external costs for biofuels, we should do so in comparison to the total cost of traditional fuels?
 
The complete N.Y. Times article is available here.