I could not resist digging deeper into the issue of bio-fuels; partly because of the guilt gnawing away deep inside me. Everyday when I take out my motor bike for my work, a small voice somewhere appeals to my better conscience to use alternative modes of transport. Save our environment. But ultimately materialistic vices always manage to drown out the feeble voice of my better conscience and I look for comfort, flexibility and the machoistic pleasures of riding a bike. The bottom line is at the end of the day I don’t care. What a beauty this conscience is? The constant gnawing has prompted me to come with a series of articles on the environment. Here’s another effort (read as a feeble attempt to listen to my conscience) as a follow-up to the Green Fuels: An Ongoing Debate article.

The discovery of fossil fuel has left an un-erasable impact on our history, economic development and lifestyles. An astronomical amount of money is being spent on importing oil every year. The insatiable demand, imminent threat of global warming and finally pricking of consciences has led mankind to search for other alternatives. Let me give a perspective on the options available.

First up are the bio-fuels such as bio-diesel, ethanol produced from fuel crops and sugar based refining processes. A certain section of the intellectually enlightened people have pointed out that the process of cultivating slow-growing fuel crops; only to deconstruct them to produce ethanol, is inherently inefficient and emits more carbon dioxide than it consumes. Environmentally conscious people have pointed out environmental and human cost of depleting agricultural lands and rainforests. Rainforests around the globe are revered as an incomparable storehouse of biodiversity. An explosion in demand for farm-grown fuels has raised global crop prices to record highs, which is spurring a dramatic expansion of agriculture, which is invading the rainforests at an increasingly alarming rate. Several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it’s dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon.

And now comes, the hunger pangs which are now being felt all over the world. By diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices. It’s being said that the grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Certain countries have converted forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that they are running out of uncultivated land.

Proponents of alternative fuels such as Sapphire have taken great pains on their websites to point out that biofuels are only part of the solution to global warming. The world is fighting an uphill battle until it realizes that right now, biofuels aren’t part of the solution at all. They’re part of the problem. More on the alternative fuel proposed by Sapphire later. Watch this space.

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