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Questioning Biofuels

Despite President Obama failing to adequately discuss climate change during this campaign, he has discussed renewable energy programs to combat climate change. He has maintained energy policy which uses an array of renewable energy sources and fossil fuels, taking a multi-faceted approach to the policy. However, within the array of renewable energy sources lies biofuels, which may cause more problem than good.

Biofuels are typically from agricultural sources, and thus are difficult to sustain for years on end. Additionally, the environmental sustainability of the lands they are grown on comes into question, and it is unknown if the energy benefits outweigh the possible consequences, such as the impact on food reserves in times of drought or the depletion of minerals from arable land.

Further, since there is essentially the requirement to use fertilizer and pesticide on crops to achieve higher yields and protect the crops, an increase in biofuel use would likely result in water and land pollution, which could affect the ecology, including humans, around any biofuel-growing source.

At its current usage, agricultural biofuels aren’t presenting huge ecological problems, but any escalation likely would. On the other hand, biofuels can, and already have, cause problems for an economy, specifically the price of food. With the increased use of corn-based ethanol as a gasoline in the past ten years, the price of corn has gone up, combined with record-setting droughts around the Midwest. The supply has not been able to meet the demand surge, so the price of corn rose. Since corn is fed to livestock and even fish, food prices rise—it costs more to produce the food. Rising food costs mean consumers spend more on necessities and are unable to spend on desires, resulting in the slow economic recovery, among many other things.

In the end, biofuels could be part of a renewable energy package, but steps would need to be taken to ensure the sustainability of the environment and economy.

Agricultural biofuels seem unlikely to fit the bill, but other biofuels could, which is why it cannot be taken off the table.

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