I used to go out of my way to fill up at gas stations which used a higher percentage of ethanol, but I no longer do, and I have a suspicion that Mr. Ziegler may well be right on this.
Despite its climate change advantages (growing the plants absorbs a comparable amount of carbon dioxide as the burning of the resulting fuel emits), biofuels have several drawbacks:
- any agricultural land devoted to biofuels production is agricultural land not available for food production which, in a world where food is in short supply, seems immoral;
- in Brazil and Southeast Asia, pristine rainforest is being burned down for sugarcane, soy bean and oil palm plantations for biofuels, which has climate change as well as species habitat consequences;
- growing corn for biofuels in the first world requires fertilizer, tractor use and transportation, to the extent that it has been estimated that it uses almost as much energy as the final fuel provides, as well as leaving behind eroded soils and polluted run-off;
- meeting the increasing demand for biofuels would require an unconscionable proportion of the available arable land;
- some estimates show that ethanol only achieves carbon savings of about 13% when the pollution from the production process and reduced mileage efficiency is taken into account (even if that estimate is disputed, more conservative estimates put the savings at no more than 50%);
- evidence from the current sugar and palm oil industries indicates that biofuels production will push up food prices significantly, with worldwide consequences;
- potential problems with genetically-modified plants and mono-culture agricultural practices loom on the horizon, with implications for bio-diversity and species habitat;
- developing biofuels will take away the impetus needed for conservation measures and improvements in fuel efficiency (a 20% overall improvement in fuel efficiency standards - quite feasible using existing technology - would apparently save far more energy than Europe's biomass could produce).