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Fwd: BioFuels concerns in Wall Street Journal today
- Subject: Fwd: BioFuels concerns in Wall Street Journal today
- From: Gary Liss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 05 Dec 2006 11:53:53 -0800
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- Delivered-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- List-name: p2tech
- Reply-to: Gary Liss <email@example.com>
Apologies for Cross-Postings
December 5, 2006
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As Alternative Energy Heats Up,
of Renewable 'Biofuels'
Could Have Drawbacks;
Fires Across Indonesia
Palm-Oil Boom Ignites Debate
By PATRICK BARTA and JANE SPENCER
December 5, 2006; Page A1
PONTIANAK, Indonesia -- Investors are pouring billions of dollars into
"renewable" energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel and solar
power that promise to reduce the world's reliance on petroleum. But
exploiting these alternatives may produce unintended environmental and
economic consequences that offset the expected benefits.
Here on the island of Borneo, a thick haze often encloses this city of
500,000 people. The cause: forest fires that have blazed across the
island. Many of them were set to clear land to produce palm oil -- a key
ingredient in biodiesel, a clean-burning diesel fuel alternative.
At a new oil-palm plantation, the hillsides have been cleared and
The bluish smoke is at times so dense that it leaves the city dark and
gloomy even at midday. The haze has sometimes closed Pontianak's airport
and prompted local volunteers to distribute face-masks on city streets.
From July through mid-October, Indonesian health officials reported
28,762 smog-related cases of respiratory illness across the
"I feel it in my breath when I breathe," said Imanuel Patasik,
a 26-year-old delivery man, as he sat in one of Pontianak's many open-air
coffee shops on a recent evening. When the smoke is really bad, he wears
a mask to work, but still wakes up the next morning feeling sick.
"It's part of life here," he sighed.
Seasonal rains have helped quell the fires over the past few weeks. But
the miasma of smoke from Borneo and the island of Sumatra -- an annual
phenomenon that blankets large parts of Southeast Asia in smog --
underscores a troubling dark side of the world's alternative-energy boom.
Among other problems, the fires in Indonesia spew millions of tons of
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, experts
say. In doing so, they exacerbate the very global-warming concerns
biofuels are meant to alleviate.
Such side effects are not an isolated problem. In Indonesia, Malaysia,
Canada and elsewhere, forests are being slashed for new energy-yielding
crops or other unconventional fuels. In India, environmental activists
say, water tables are dropping as farmers try to boost production of
"Let's be brutally frank: [The push for alternative fuels] is going
to cause significant changes for the environment," says Sean Darby,
an equities analyst and expert on alternative energy companies at Nomura
International in Hong Kong. He is most worried about the strain on water
resources caused by accelerated crop production. Water, he says, is
"just as precious" as oil.
For the full article, go to:
WSJ.com - As Alternative Energy Heats Up, Environmental Concerns
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