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Before you throw your full support behind biofuels as an alternative to oil, make sure you consider the land requirements. Here’s a quick calculation:
Our total yearly energy consumption from oil for transportation is equal to 1,360 GW of thermal energy (for comparison, a typical large power plant may generate 3 GW of thermal energy). It takes about 0.45 square miles of land to produce enough biomass to generate 1 MW of thermal energy (assuming the land is used sustainably). So to replace all of our oil consumption with biofuels will require about 612,000 square miles of land. The entire continental United States equals 2,960,000 square miles, so we would have to set aside about 20% of our land for biofuels.
Or on average, we would need to devote 10 entire states to biofuel production. This would be an incredible challenge. On top of that, we’ve already seen food price increases due to increased use of corn ethanol. And the science is clear that biofuels currently require just as much energy to produce, mostly coming from fossil fuels, as the energy we can get out of them–it doesn’t matter if we’re talking corn ethanol or biodiesel. Ultimately, unless science can change the energy requirements, biofuels end up producing just as much pollution as oil because of the energy inputs.
Unless we see a major technological breakthrough, biofuels are not the direction we should be going.