Producing Biofuels May Worsen, Not Lessen, Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Air Date: 02/08/2008
Source:
NBC Nightly News
Creator:
Brian Williams/Anne Thompson
Air/Publish Date:
02/08/2008
Event Date:
02/08/2008
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2008
Clip Length:
00:02:12

In 2008, the journal Science reports that the production of biofuels such as ethanol and soybean biodiesel actually doubles instead of reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

Producing Biofuels May Worsen, Not Lessen, Carbon Dioxide Emissions

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Los Angeles):

NBC News IN DEPTH tonight, it's about the environment. We've all heard the buzz over biofuels like ethanol. But as our chief environmental correspondent Anne Thompson reports, we've now learned what many hoped would be a solution may really be making things worse.

ANNE THOMPSON reporting:

Biofuels, touted as cleaner burning and better for the environment, today stand accused of actually hurting it instead by adding carbon dioxide, the pollution creating global warming.

Mr. TIMOTHY SEARCHINGER (Princeton University): What we've found is that using corn for ethanol roughly doubles the amount of global warming pollution that you get from driving your car rather than using gasoline.

THOMPSON: Searchinger's study is one of two in the journal Science today that claim biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn, increase greenhouse gas emissions. How? To grow them, farmers need to remove some of nature's best carbon absorbers--soil, trees, shrubs, and grasses--to plant the crops that become biofuels.

Mr. JASON HILL (University of Minnesota): These natural lands are tremendous storers of carbon, and when you clear these lands, you release that carbon into the air.

THOMPSON: Hill says it will take decades--in some cases, even centuries--to undo the damage. For example, to reverse the conversion of Indonesia and Malaysia's peat land rainforest for palm biodiesel, 423 years. Brazil's tropical rainforest for soybean biodiesel, 319 years. America's abandoned farmland for corn ethanol, 48 years. And Brazil's woodlands for sugar cane ethanol, 17 years. These studies have the renewable fuel industry in this country fuming. It says the biodiesel plants grown act as sponges, and more eco-friendly sources such as switchgrass are already in development.

Mr. BOB DINNEEN (Renewable Fuels Association): We're building the foundation today for a more sustainable biofuels industry in the future. And if they were to have their way, we wouldn't be able to do that.

THOMPSON: The study's authors say they're not trying to hurt the industry. Instead they want it to find other sources to ensure biodiesel is less polluting from start to finish. Brian:

WILLIAMS: Anne Thompson with us from New York tonight. Anne, thanks.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Learning Management Systems please log in to your institution's Learning Management System web site and click "Browse NBC Learn".
For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!
Close NBC Learn

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

Videos on this page are not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on the footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games videos are only available to visitors inside the United States due to licensing restrictions on the Olympics footage used in the videos.

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on on Olympic footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Blackboard™ please log in to your institution's Blackboard™ web site and click "Browse NBC Learn"

Close NBC Learn

If you have received a new user registration code from your institution, click your product below and use the "Register now" link to sign up for a personal account.

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!