Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Greenpeace takes on biodiesel

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on May 29, 2008

So I’m in week two of a three-week trip through Argentina, which is why I haven’t been posting.  Basically, I’ve had limited internet access, and frankly have been more focused on eating steaks and goat than on economics. 

But last night I was half-watching TV at the café, and in between skits centered on the hilarity of men wearing wigs and news segments alternately worshipping and subtly mocking Diego Maradona, there was an advertisement from Greenpeace Argentina (in conjunction with GP Germany) blasting soy biodiesel production.  Basically, it pointed out how the nation is literally burning through its land to plant energy crops.  Over 2 million hectares of forest have been converted into energy croplands in the past nine years — much of this goes to fuel German diesel vehicles that are widespread in Europe.  Diesel vehicles are indeed often longer-lasting and more efficient than the US’s gas-fueled fleet, but as with ethanol we must be careful about leaping too enthusiastically on the biofuel bandwagon.  Not this is that new to anyone; it’s just becoming more and more apparent to me that the solution to our transport emissions has to involve a move away from liquid fuels through a combination of efficiency and the tricky electric car. 

Anyway, I’ll be back around June 10th or so, with (hopefully) better thought-out posts not hastily written in an internet café.

2 Responses to “Greenpeace takes on biodiesel”

  1. Donnie Tisdale said

    All valid points. I agree the future of personal transport is electric. I’m in the process of starting up bidiesel production as a stop gap (and to make money) and have some very cool ideas for personal electric transport. perhaps one day you’ll be driving one of my electric cars. in the mean time hopefully you’ll smell the french fries from my tail pipe.

    Don Tisdale
    UTMB Engineering Specialist

    Facilities Operations And Management

    301 University boulevard, Galveston Texas 77555-1116

    Phone: 409-747-2948
    Fax: 409-772-3502
    Mobile: 409-682-3258


  2. The biodiesel is a waste of resources. I agree with Don, that the future of passenger transport is some kind of vehicle powered by energy stored somehow (as hydrogen, compressed air or in batteries). But what about agriculture? Modern western economies have very efficient agriculture, which needs a lot of fuel to power the tractors, combine harvesters and such. But hey, even the old, horse-powered agriculture requires some fuel. So what is the difference between planting soybean or canola to make vegetable oil for your tractor and planting some grain to feed your horse? In my opinion tractors are much more energy-efficient than horses. So I believe that vegetable oil (not biodiesel, as it’s less renewable) should be used mainly for agricultural needs and for trucks. I don’t think that large trucks might be powered by batteries.😉

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