Activist Jane Goodall Condemned Biofuels for Hurting Rainforest

September 28th, 2007 8:29 AM
Reuters photo

Say goodbye to the Great Green Hope. Biofuels are on the endangered list, although the media in America won't tell you that. Reuters reported in its September 26 article that Jane Goodall, the internationally famous primate scientist and environmental icon who presented at Al Gore's Live Earth, added her criticism of vegetable-based biofuels to a growing list experts.

On Wednesday, Goodall, best known for her chimpanzee research and media appearances, said “on the sidelines” of the Clinton Global Initiative that growing crops for vehicle fuels is endangering rain forests in Asia, Africa and South America and adding to anthropogenic global warming (bold mine throughout):

We're cutting down forests now to grow sugarcane and palm oil for biofuels and our forests are being hacked into by so many interests that it makes them more and more important to save now.

If only Reuters had acknowledged the other scientific findings that show biofuels produce more greenhouse gases than oil and gasoline, as NewsBusters has documented. But at least Reuters noted Goodall's narrow criticism about destroying rain forests.

Green activists and agribusiness have promoted vegetable-based biofuels as a solution to global warming and alternative to pricey foreign oil, but many experts have listed problems with the product.

Because of the environmentalists' push for an alternative to the fossil fuels that they say cause AGW, many countries see economic opportunity and are quickly planting crops that can be turned into biofuels. Brazil and Indonesia are growing sugar cane for ethanol and palm oil for biodiesel.

Reuters explained the crux of the Goodall's displeasure:

The United Nations' climate program considers the fuels to be low in carbon because growing the crops takes in heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide.

But critics say demand for the fuels has led companies to cut down and burn forests in order to grow the crops, adding to heat-trapping emissions and leading to erosion and stress on ecosystems.

Reuters continued:

Biofuel isn't the answer to everything; it depends where it comes from," she said. "All of this means better education on where fuels are coming from are needed."

Goodall said the problem is especially bad in the Indonesian rain forest where large amounts of palm nut oil is being made. Growers in Uganda -- where her nonprofit group works to conserve Great Apes -- are also looking to buy large parcels of rain forest and cut them down to grow sugar cane, while in Brazil, forest is cleared to grow sugar cane.

As with most in the American media, Reuters didn't explain the other problems with biofuels.

NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard pointed out  that scientists such as Prof. Keith Smith of the University of Edinburgh found that “rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 percent and 50 percent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.”

Not only that, but “biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised” through the nitrogen in the fertilizer.

More damning, Dr. Dave Reay found that with those findings and “the US Senate aiming to increase maize ethanol production sevenfold by 2022, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will rise by 6 per cent.

Then there is the disruption in the world food supply, “surging food prices and the potential destruction of natural habits.”


It's a start that Reuters and Yahoo ran the article in the US. It looks like the anti-biofuel information blackout is cracking.


Lynn is a contributor for NewsBusters and can be reached at tvisgoodforyou2 AT yahoo DOT com