Save the planet? Kill cap-and-trade
Examiner Editorial October 30, 2009
If members of Congress need yet another reason to kill the Waxman-Markey bill, the Obama administration's economy-suffocating, job-destroying energy program, Princeton University's Tim Searchinger and his colleagues have a humdinger: Carbon reduction laws encourage widespread deforestation as trees and other vegetation are harvested to produce energy from biomass to replace oil and gas. The problem is that in long run, this process actually increases greenhouse gas emissions, which cap-and-trade is meant to reduce, according to Searchinger.
The Princeton researcher's paper, published Oct. 23 in Science, points out that almost all prior global warming studies failed to take into account the carbon emissions that result from converting cropland and forests to energy production. This accounting error treats all bio-energy as carbon-neutral, the authors say, despite the fact that burning wood and clearing land actually releases quite a large quantity of carbon into the atmosphere.
"By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years," the Princeton authors say. "Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%." Neither the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nor existing European cap-and-trade programs have taken into account widespread deforestation as farmers worldwide respond to the new economic incentives, Searchinger added.