The Epitome of a Catch Twenty-Two

Losing Forests to Fuel Cars
Washington Post

This article discusses the clearing of the Brazilian Cerrado, an extremely diverse area of landscape, in order to make room for sugar cane, an important ethanol producer. According to the article, already have the Cerrado has been destroyed to make room for cattle farms and soy beans. Scientists have predicted that if this rate of deforestation continues, by the year 2030, all vegetation in the Cerrado will be gone.

As countries seek to lower their CO2 emissions by achieving greater quotas of ethanol, more and more land must be cleared in order to make room for corn, sugarcane, etc. According to scientists, the Cerrado is home to over 160,000 plant and animal species, and many of them are threatened species. This extreme disruption to the delicate Cerrado ecosystem could mean the extinction of thousands of species.

As the world becomes more conscious of the threat of global warming, ethanol is becoming very alluring to tons of investors and big business leaders. It has a promising future. Thus, the race to produce ethanol is heating up. Everyone wants a piece of land in order to share in the profit of the bio fuel.

Think about it: In order to help the environment, we’re killing the environment. Call it what you will: stuck between a rock and a hard place, a catch twenty-two, damned if we do, damned if we don’t… but this has got to be handled cautiously. Some are suggesting that areas that have already been clear-cut for cattle farming could now be used to produce the sugar cane in order to prevent more forestation from being cut.

The fact is, if the agricultural frontier of Brazil is pushed too far, there will be irreparable damage. What happens when all the agricultural resources in that area have been exhausted? Where will we grow our food? Raise our cows? Produce our ethanol? What happens when there really is nothing left? Although that particular situation may not happen for decades, I know personally that I could not even dream of doing something like that to future generations.

I don’t really know what the answer is, nor do I know how to fix it.
To be crude, the whole situation sucks. It just plain sucks.

How much do we sacrifice and how much to we choose to preserve? What type of decision would cause the least amount of environmental damage while not costing everyone on the planet an arm and a leg? What’s the most effective, positive decision FOR THE LONG-TERM benefit of humanity?

How do we choose…?


4 Responses to “The Epitome of a Catch Twenty-Two”

  1. Floridabear1 Says:

    It is beyond my understanding as both a scientest and an Engineer how we, the United States can believe we have the land area to produce the required fuel? OK, so we stop soybean, wheat, oats, garden crops and just devote all that land toward Ethonol. We would not be able to make enough to support our EXISTING requirement for Gasoline and remember Ethonol is only about 67 to 74 percent as efficient (BTU PRODUCES) as gasoline in the power it produces by buning.

    Now another “little” item… Where will all this corn be stored? ?For How long, what/how will control the vermin and other biological attacks on it?

    Yeah, I guess I also overlooked is how will be transport it to the local filling stations from the producer? Seems that you can not use piping as it will seep through the existing fittings. The only way to transport these millions of gallons of liquid is through the existing natural gas lines and if you think that is possible… Got another “Sign” for you.

    Bottom line is this is NOT even a stop-gap measure, but one that is bing supported by some really BIG MONEY someplace!

    I also forget to mention that due to its low power (BTU) output you will make less gas milage and thus YOU WILL PAY MORE PER GALLON than YOURE paying NOW.

    STILL READY TO GET ON THIS WAGON? EVEN WITH THE O’L SONG: “JIMMEY CRACK CORN AND I DON’T CARE…… is not enough for me to believe that this is even close to the answer to replace carbon based fuels…

  2. 06jk Says:

    Ooo I like your first two paragraphs a lot. Awesome points definitely.

    And yeah… HUGE money is being invested in the ethanol industry. That Washington Post article gave a figure or two, but I can’t remember them presently.

    However, paying more for ethanol may not be such a problem if gas prices continue to rise. It may become just as cost efficient at the pump, but perhaps not in other places…

    Thanks for the reply!

  3. Shucks Says:

    Although I’d always prefer another alternative energy source, I’ve got a few questions about the whole thing that I haven’t had time to look into.

    Do we really need ethanol to replace gasoline completely? Is there a happy medium that would allow some gasoline based cars, and some ethanol based cars to a ratio that would not harm the environment? Is using gasoline always harmful, or is it harmful only in very excessive quantities?

    As a legacy of the farming business (even though I will never own, or operate a farm), I have to say that it will be very profitable for my family down in southern Illinois. The idea of having corn as a super crop will help corn, but also other crops. While the price of corn, etc goes up, farmers will be able to make more money on those, and other farmers will have more of an opportunity to sell the other crops b/c the supply will be less. Hopefully this will push more money into those areas for some modern advancements. It’s like a timewarp going down there right now. Although, some people prefer it that way….

    Either way, Ethanol could prove to be useful in at least reducing the amount of oil we need from other countries, and our own use of oil until we figure out something better.

  4. 06jk Says:

    There are a couple problems with ethanol:

    First, it takes oil to produce it. The tractors that till the soil and the machines that pick the crop run on petroleum based products. The process of making the ethanol also utilizes petroleum.

    Second, while all that corn is a great way to help our farmers and our own economy, there is a problem with how it is being handled. As Floridabear1 touched on slightly in his comment, the U.S. is ceasing some of its soybean production, along with some other crops in order to make room for more corn. Soon, Brazil, and not the U.S., will be the leader in soybean production. And the sad part is that, no matter what we do, the U.S. will never really have enough room to be a super producer of ethanol. There just isn’t enough farm land.

    Aaaand finally, I feel like gasoline in small quantities isn’t so bad for the environment. It’s pretty neat to see what kind of buffers our world has against a lot of different types of damages. It could probably absorb a certain amount of CO2 without much harm.

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