Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What is all the talk about Indirect land use?

Have you heard about 'indirect land use' and direct land use? If you haven't - you probably will soon. It is a phrase that was inserted into the 2007 Energy Bill. Th at bill raised the ethanol mandate from corn to 15 billion gallons and established a biodiesel mandate starting at 500 million gallons. One of the concessions to environmental groups in the deal-making was to require new ethanol plants and all biodiesel plants to make ethanol and biodiesel that have lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.
Clearing of land to plant more crops has been going on for about 10,000 years. The rate of rainforest destruction is not highly correlated with biofuels production – which is very recent - or even grain and oilseed prices. Rainforest destruction is caused by a myriad of factors unique to each country. Please note that cropland in the US is shrinking every year. None-the-less, the language is in the law and EPA has to find a way to deal with it. The law could be complied with if only domestic land use changes were considered.
Congress passed a bill that was supposed to ramp up renewable use but then tied conditions to the production of renewables that make it nearly impossible to actually accomplish the goals.

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