Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Biofuel expansion would send cattle into the rain forest

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Interesting stuff, directly related to my doctoral research, which provides a cost benefit analysis of existing legislation in Brazil that mandates that producers must set aside 25-30% of their land as forest reserves. Setting aside that much land is prohibitive for most producers, and since the laws are not heavily enforced, compliance is very low. My study provides an assessment of exactly how much producers would have to be paid so that they are adequately compensated for revenues lost from leaving or implementing forests alongside sugarcane.

The study discussed in the article below is basically saying that there is not enough land to have food, biofuels, cattle, and forests. There are options, however, that may contradict these findings. Pasture lands can be intensified, requiring half the land for the same number of cattle. Still, it seems that using less energy, and eating lower on the food chain, are also cost effective and feasible methods for dealing with these issues.

Biofuel production in the US has met with fairly mixed success, as the cost and fossil fuel use of corn-based ethanol has severely cut into the benefits provided by avoiding the use of fossil fuels. It’s been a somewhat different story in Brazil, which has embraced ethanol derived from sugarcane and seen more promising results. The government has set aggressive targets for both ethanol and biodiesel production, but a study that will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science later this week urges caution: unless the goals are met through an integrated agricultural strategy, they’ll drive deforestation that will offset most of the benefits.
Read the entire article here, or you can download the study here.