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Beneficial Biofuels—The Food, Energy, and Environment Trilemma

When growing crops for biofuels, there is a "trilemma", a three-way tradeoff, between food security, energy production and capacity, and the environment. Some ways of obtaining biofuels are preferable to others, and keeping this in mind is crucial when planning large scale operations. Crops grown on degraded agricultural land, repurposed for biofuel production, unused residue from common crops such as corn and rice, forestry waste, and industrial and municipal waste are sustainable, ensuring that energy can be produced, without threatening food security or the environment. In contrast, potentially more profitable methods, such as clearing rainforest and native ecosystems, is clearly wrong. There needs to be policy to enforce sustainable production of biofuels, otherwise profitability may trump ecological sensitivity and food security. Biofuels should only be subsidized when they are positive with respect to energy security and national interest, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, food security, and ecosystem biodiversity.
David Tilman, Robert Socolow, Jonathan A. Foley, Jason Hill, Eric Larson, Lee Lynd, Stephen Pacala, John Reilly, Tim Searchinger, Chris Somerville, Robert Williams
University of Minnesota, Princeton University , Dartmouth College, MIT, University of California Berkeley
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