What Should Forests Fear: Global Warming or Global Warming Policies?

D.C., April 22, 2008—Activists
who fear catastrophic effects from global warming have long predicted that
deforestation would be one of the many impacts. As the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee today
the possible connection between forests and climate change, the
Competitive Enterprise Institute urges members to remember the very real
negative impacts that global warming policies are already having on forest

“For years, one of the most frequently proposed solutions
to consumption of oil and gas in developed countries was the use of biofuels –
particularly ethanol – that are distilled from plant material,” said
Competitive Enterprise Institute Director of Energy & Global Warming Policy
Myron Ebell. “Now that
government subsidies and mandates have made biofuels a reality, the chickens
have come home to roost. Millions of acres of forest land that would have been
left undisturbed or dedicated to food production have been given over to
biofuels production.”

The rush to biofuel production has not only contributed to
large scale deforestation around the world, it is also causing the prices of
staple foods like corn and rice to skyrocket in the developing world. The
results have come to constitute not just an environmental, but also a humanitarian

“Recent food riots from Mexico
to Egypt to the Philippines
have shown the predictable results of burning an ever larger share of the
world’s food supply for fuel,” said Energy Policy Analyst William Yeatman. “Whatever
speculative impacts climate change might have on forests decades from now, they
are unlikely to match the unintended impact human beings are having already in
the name of fighting global warming.”

Having witnessed the human tragedy wrought by their
recommended policies, some biofuels advocates have recently renounced fuels
made from food crops, instead endorsing formulas made from plant cellulose. This
“cellulosic ethanol” could eventually take some pressures off of the world food
supply, but again, only at the cost of even greater exploitation of forest land
for biofuel production.

“As a global warming policy, the
bio-fuels craze is clearly counter-productive,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis. “For example, the
Clean Air Task Force reports that in Indonesia,
almost 12 million hectares of peat land have been drained, cleared, and burned,
much of it to make room for palm oil plantations. In the process, about 2
billion metric tons of CO2 are released annually, making Indonesia the world’s third biggest emitter of
greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States.”

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan
public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited
government. For more information about
CEI, please visit our website at www.cei.org.