Sunday, March 2, 2008

We'll stop using fossil fuels... when every last lump of coal is burned

I was listening to the Nature Podcast this week and I heard a commentary by George Monbiot.
He argued all climate mitigation strategies every where will fail because we only focus on reducing demand for carbon based fuels and not the supply; we have policies which favor low carbon fuels, hybrid cars, greater efficiency but none that dissuade us from finding new carbon based fuels.
(see transcript here Nature Podcast transcript)

I've been thinking about biofuels this week and so I tried to put his thoughts into the context of low carbon fuels.
All bio-fuels result in a net input of CO2 into the atmosphere - the CO2 released per unit of energy produced is lower than when we produce energy from fossil fuels. So if we stop burning fossil fuels and start relying on sensibly located, truly low carbon bio-fuels (marginal cropland, zero input sustainable ecosystems and waste burning) we will slow the increase of atmospheric CO2 and perhaps ameliorate the magnitude of climate change. But there is no suggestion that we will stop using fossil fuels.

Low carbon fuels will be used not instead of but in addition to high carbon fuels. This is a truth that needs to be changed.


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