RFA responds to Time magazine article

By Jessica Ebert | April 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted April 14, 2008 at 12:55 p.m. CST

The Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO calls a Time magazine article a "harangue against biofuels."

In late March, Time magazine published an article by senior correspondent, Michael Grunwald that highlighted the toll the rapid and subsidized expansion of the biofuels industry has taken on global food prices and land-use changes. Grunwald paints an intimate and devastating picture of the rush to convert the forests of the Amazon and the savannas of the Cerado into biofuel crop farms. He also points out that according to recent scientific studies, when deforestation is taken into account, biofuels, and particularly ones made from food crops, don't provide the greenhouse gas emission savings they've been touted to provide.

In a letter to Time, Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA said the article is unbalanced and lacking in accurate information. "In his rush to vilify ethanol, Mr. Grunwald conveniently glosses over important facts and marginalizes viewpoints that differ from his own," Dinneen wrote. One of these issues is that since the reports were published in the Science journal, several academic researchers, including Michael Wang of Argonne National Laboratories, have called into question the conclusions. In a response to the studies, Wang wrote that "at this time, it is not clear what land use changes could occur globally as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production."

Dinneen also points out that the Time article ignores other factors besides biofuels that are leading to deforestation and driving commodity prices higher. "Across the globe, populations are rising and economies are growing," Dinneen said. "In Asia and India, the middle classes are expanding rapidly and increasing demand for dairy and meat products. The new demand is placing additional pressure on global agriculture to feed the livestock that produce these goods." He added, "this phenomenon is demonstrated by the fact that American exports of grain are on pace to be the highest in history." In addition, farmland is being lost to housing subdivisions and strip malls, and economies across the globe continue to grow "gobbling up" oil, which is driving the soaring demand for fossil fuels.

"Everyone in the biofuels industry agrees that rainforest and other environmentally vital ecosystems ought not to be destroyed to produce biofuels. But to dismiss the important role biofuels must play in our quest to reduce oil dependence and mitigate global climate change in favor of questionable science and overheated rhetoric is foolhardy," Dinneen wrote.