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The hidden costs of better fuels

Clearing tropical forests to grow biofuel crops doesn't add up

10:46am, February 15, 2009

CHICAGO — Biofuels could lose their green sheen if they are grown at the expense of tropical forests. Demand for the liquid fuels could lead to severe deforestation, researchers warn, which would release far more carbon into the atmosphere than that saved by switching to the greener fuels.

“The bottom line is that crop-based biofuels are going to increase greenhouse gas emissions if they continue to be produced the way they are today,” says Holly Gibbs, a research fellow at StanfordUniversity, who presented a new assessment of land use and biofuel production February 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Increased demand for biofuel crops such as corn, soybean, cassava and palm oil has ripple effects, Gibbs says. Most industrialized countries aiming to replace fossil fuels with biofuels don’t have the agricultural land to grow these fuels. And many of the most pr

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