Biofuel Boom Threatens Life on the Plains

A new study finds that high commodity prices and a biofuels rush have led to rates of grassland loss in America's northern Plains “comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia.” Brad Plumer discusses the impacts.

"A new study by Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University finds that U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011," writes Plumer. As up to five percent of grasslands in some states are converted to cropland each year, the northern Plains are confronting unexpected problems.

For example, notes Plumer, the loss of pasture could have big environmental impacts. "Studies have found that grasslands hold carbon in their soil better than cropland does."

"There’s a wildlife angle, too: The Prairie Pothole Region, traversing Minnesota and the Dakotas, is one of the continent’s key breeding grounds for ducks and other ground-nesting birds. Tall grasses in the area help sustain a number of species and shield birds from predators. But corn fields are now encroaching on the habitat, and bird populations are dropping."

Full Story: Biofuel rush wiping out America’s grasslands at fastest pace since the 1930s

Comments

Comments

Biofuels can never be sustainable

Biofuels are fundamentally unsustainable and can never be sustainable. Just ask a soil scientist. I will try to summarize the problem in as few steps as possible:

1. When plants are grown, they absorb nutrients from the soil.
2. If nutrients are not returned to the soil, eventually the soil becomes depleted of nutrients
3. If the soil is depleted of nutrients, plants will not grow.
4. In order to return nutrients to the soil, plant wastes must be returned to the soil. Also, the animal waste at the end of the food chain must be returned to the soil. If a cow eats some grass and then a person eats the cow, the person's waste has to be returned to the field that the cow grazed on.
5. With biofuels, plants are essentially grown and then burned, so nutrients are not returned to the soil.
6. Therefore, biofuels deplete the soil of nutrients.
7. The only way to overcome this problem is to add fertilizers to the fields which are derived from fossil fuels.
8. Therefore, the production of biofuels is wholly dependent on fossil fuels.
9. Fossil fuels are a finite resource.
10. Therefore, biofuels are wholly dependent on fossil fuels. Biofuels are best thought of as a byproduct of fossil fuels. As such, biofuels are not sustainable.

4. should have read "the

4. should have read "the animal waste at every step of the food chain must be returned to the soil" So in the example both the cow's waste and the human's waste must be returned to the field that the cow grazed on.

Biofuels are a threat to national security

Biofuels are a threat to our national security as they deplete the soil of nutrients. Soil depletion has been a leading cause of civilization collapse throughout history. The only ones who benefit are the corn growers and biofuels lobby. Society as a whole suffers.

Can we please stop supporting this stupid idea?

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