Argument: Biofuels are essential to replacing waning and high-priced petroleum


“The Case for Biofuel”. Yappa Ding Ding. 22 April 2008 – The compelling argument for biofuel is that we need a replacement for oil. The cherry on top is that biofuel can be much less polluting than oil. It seems sensible to build this technology, even if it has drawbacks at the moment.

Robert Zubrin. “In defense of biofuels”. The New Atlantis. Spring 2008 – On the world markets, the cost of a barrel of oil is, at this writing, over $120. In the United States, a gallon of gasoline now costs, on average, roughly $3.50. Even when adjusted for inflation, both of those figures are now higher than they have ever been—higher than during the 1973 oil embargo, higher than during any subsequent peak. And yet, bizarrely, instead of focusing their attention on the staggering cost of oil and its ruinous implications for global growth and economic wellbeing, American policymakers and energy analysts have begun to decry a different fuel—one that holds the key to ending our dependency on expensive oil purchased from countries with interests inimical to our own.

Biofuels—a class of fuels of which ethanol is the most prominent and immediately promising—can play a central part in weaning the United States from oil. But in recent months, a flood of press reports, articles in scientific journals, and statements from international bureaucrats have suggested that ethanol is starving the world’s poor, is a waste of government money, and is bad for the environment. These claims are simply not true; some are based on partial information, some on gross disinformation, but none of them can withstand close scrutiny. Many of the critics of ethanol mean well: they are worried about hungry children or big government. Others have more self-interested motivations for their criticism of biofuels—like Hugo Chávez, the preening, obstreperous dictator of oil-exporting Venezuela, who has called ethanol production a “crime.” Still others are driven by a Malthusian vision of a world with fewer people in it. No matter the motivations of these unlikeliest of bedfellows, their recent objections to ethanol could have the cumulative effect of warping U.S. and international biofuels policy—and just at the moment when exorbitant oil costs should, if anything, be leading legislators to adopt the critical technology needed to expand the role of biofuels in the world’s fuel supply.