Biofuels are bad. (Image by flickr user sethschoen)
The UN drew attention last week to the looming world water shortage, which they anticipate will develop in the next decade.
One of the fascinating things in that article is the information about the inefficient use of water in producing biofuels. It takes about 2500 litres of water to produce a single litre of biofuel.
I have a 40 litre tank on my car (which I rarely drive these days- I have filled it once in the last 6 weeks). If I fill it with standard fuel- 10% ethanol- I’d use 4 litres of biofuel. That’s 10,000 litres of water every single time I fill my car, unless I choose more expensive fuel. Which I do now, but still.
And this is the problem: when making environmental decisions, there’s a big problem with just considering carbon footprints. Understanding broader environmental impact of various things is far more important. We run the real risk of making changes that slow climate change only to trigger a greater environmental or humanitarian disaster.
Being especially aware of the problems with water is important. We can’t have water-based solutions to climate change unless we’re seriously willing to reform our water use. We need to rethink what crops we grow and where. For example, growing rice in Australia? That’s just stupid. We don’t have the necessary water, simple as that. With the Murray Darling being drained every year, the very fact that people on the river grow rice does much to explain the problem.
Ok, so yes, this has been a very haphazard post…probably because I’m just starting to learn about this stuff. It just seems risky to me that, in trying to solve a problem, we may cause another of equal or greater magnitude.