First, you apparently subsidize biodiesel by about a buck a gallon here in the U.S. OK, it's a start to reduce petroleum usage--no problem, right?
Um, no. Even beyond the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used to grow the soybeans and other oilseeds, you're planting, cultivating, and harvesting using quite a bit of petroleum and its derivatives. So like ethanol (which burns 2/3 of a gallon of gasoline to get the equivalent of one gallon), there is something of a difficulty getting more energy out than you put in.
It gets worse, though. Evidently, some enterprising folks have figured that the subsidy applies even when the oils used for the biodiesel don't come from our own country. They are apparently importing Malaysian palm oil, mixing it with a bit of diesel fuel, and selling it to Germany while pocketing the subsidy. So you're paying for Malaysian farmers to ship these oils about 20,000 miles or so to Germany--using real diesel fuel to power the ships, of course.
Nope, we're not done yet. To add insult to injury, it actually turns out that a lot of those new palm oil plantations are clearing rainforest and burning peat bogs to get the land ready for palm oil cultivation; in the process covering large areas of Malaysia and Indonesia with smoky haze and releasing (by some accounts) as much carbon dioxide as Europe does.
Forget your Suburban. It seems that one of the biggest threats to the environment is subsidies for "environmentally safe" fuels.
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