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Biodiesel is not the answer

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Michelle Nijhuis’ ode to biodiesel and her American-sized Mercedes is well-intentioned but misinformed (HCN, 8/8/05: The American dream, sans gasoline).

Biodiesel aficionados claim that burning vegetable oil drastically reduces overall emissions of globe-warming carbon dioxide because the carbon in plant oils is already part of the natural carbon cycle. But the carbon in vegetable oil that is left to naturally degrade will take months, if not years, to make its way into the atmosphere through the respiration of soil microorganisms that feed on it. If that same vegetable oil is burned, its C02 enters the atmosphere immediately. The massive human addiction to combustion pushes the equilibrium between harmless soil carbon and global warming atmospheric carbon toward the atmospheric side of the equation, regardless of the fuel being burned.

In addition, it would take over a billion acres of land to grow enough vegetable oil to power America’s transportation sector.

The current infatuation with biodiesel creates the dangerous illusion of having done something about the massive problems of climate change and resource depletion. It fools us into believing that we can continue our fascination with big cars and RVs while still maintaining a clean conscience.

Jeff Falen
Lebanon, Oregon

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