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Biofuels Study Upsets Farmers

Two Groups Suspend Grant Money at U

From the Daily:

February 28, 2008

Results showed that some biofuels added to global warming, and did not benefit the environment.

By Kelly Gulbrandson

Two soybean-focused groups suspended $1.5 million in grant money for professors researching biofuels earlier this week as an angry reaction to a University study.

After the study, published by University professors David Tilman, Stephen Polasky and Peter Hawthorne, was released in the Feb. 7 edition of the journal Science, local farmers and other agencies voiced their opinions about claims that stated using biofuels, such as soybeans, contributes to global warming.

Tilman, who is currently on sabbatical from the University, said he feels the study is misunderstood by others in the industry.

"The goal of our paper was to point out if we do certain things, that those things would give us fuels that didn't have very much environmental benefit," he said.

Tilman said the paper didn't say the problems were happening now, but instead that they could happen in the future

Bev Durgan, director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station at the University, said whenever a researcher publishes a study, there are going to be people who disagree with it.

She said research will continue at the University and that this decision won't have an effect on that.

Gordy Thomas, a farmer from Rockford, Minn., said he found the biofuel study to be "troubling."


This is a very good example of why the apparently abstract concept of academic freedom is crucial to the mission of a university.

Especially so in these times when research may be tied financially to those who have a stake in the outcome of that research.


Why don't we give consumer level rebates for bio fuels or other alternative fuels. But I think from an economic standpoint, if the government can find a way to produce bio fuels at a price that is lower than comparable petroleum fuels or use some of the huge bailout funds to subsidize the cost and then stand back and let the normal course of capitalism take over. The Federal Government should lead by example anyway, why have they not scrapped the Federal fleet of gasoline powered vehicles and bought U.S. manufactured alternative fueled replacements in lieu of giving the auto makers handouts? This would save American jobs and send a signal to the public that the Government is serious about alternative fuels. Just my thoughts, thanks.

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