The 2009 Annual Biofools Contestants
Linda Cook, CEO, Shell Oil
Linda Cook, Executive Director of Shell Oil, recently announced that Shell will no longer invest in wind and solar energy and will instead focus increasingly on biofuels. Cook claims this is decision based on economics, which could be true: biofuels receive the vast majority of subsidies given to "renewable" energy. So, what is Cook really saying? The false market for biofuels created by perverse incentives for biofuel production is causing Shell to drop other, more sustainable, and truly renewable energy sources from their portfolio. Shell’s website actually goes so far as to make the false claim that using biofuels will reduce greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Hugh Grant, CEO, Monsanto
Of the 100 million acres of "transgenic" -- genetically altered, or engineered -- crops planted worldwide, 90% contain at least some element of "trait technology" created by Monsanto. The global biofuels rush has provided just that perfect new market for voracious Monsanto, who states unabashedly that any claims that biofuels are harmful for the environment or have anything to do with food price spikes and shortages are totally false. In 2007, Monsanto created a $1.5 billion partnership with the German chemical company BASF to develop new varieties of genetically modified seeds to meet the ever-growing demand for plant-based fuels. Contrary to what Monsanto would like you to believe, cellulosic biofuels are nowhere near commercially viable and can still pose significant threats to the environment. Monsanto has also partnered with synthetic biology companies like, Athenix, a subsidiary of DuPont, who is working on entirely new forms of life from sugar DNA to create fuels.
Sen. Grassley (R-IA)
Iowan Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is a staunch supporter of biofuels. I guess it makes sense, since he’s from corn country, and receives campaign contributions from the Renewable Fuels Association (a major proponent of biofuels) and National Corn Growers Association. Maybe he too has been fooled, claiming that biofuels are "contributing to a cleaner environment." He must mean that Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico — the result of massive nitrogen fertilizer runoff from corn monocultures throughout the Midwest. Or maybe he is talking about the increased deforestation that is occurring around the world as a result of increased grain production for biofuels. Wait, nope. Grassley claims that "agricultural practices and land use decisions in other countries are not driven by U.S. biofuels polices." Since when did US agricultural and energy policy exist in a global vacuum? Not to mention, it is well documented by numerous economists and scientists that biofuels have a huge impact on agricultural markets and land use around the world.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD)
Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) has been a strong advocate for reducing global warming pollution, but at the same time she misses the point when it comes to biofuels. Meanwhile, she repetitively attempts to strip federal forest protections from biofuels policy, claiming that somehow prohibiting the clear-cut of our federal forests for biofuel production keeps us dependent on foreign oil. Let’s get real: biofuels will never be able to make meaningful reductions to our petroleum consumption and are certainly not a cure to our oil addiction as Herseth-Sandlin claims. Meanwhile, anyone who disagrees with her stark approval of biofuels is based on "misguided and inaccurate" claims. Maybe the real reason why she’s such a biofuels proponent is related to the campaign donations that ADM and the National Corn Growers Association gave her during the last election cycle. Makes you wonder who the misguided one is.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Senator John Thune (R-SD) has been a huge proponent of biofuels for many years. Most recently, he has taken several actions to decrease the environmental safety of biofuels. He has advocated for and increase in the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, coating his plea with a false sense of urgency in an attempt to change the law before proper testing for air quality and engine safety issues associated with an increased blend is competed. Also, recently Thune has introduced a bill that would strip safeguards for federal forests from biofuels policy, almost identical to that which Herseth-Sandlin introduced in the House. Meanwhile, Thune has also written to EPA to encourage them to ignore the most potent source of greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels, those emissions from deforestation caused by shifts in global agricultural markets, known as “indirect land use change”. Thune’s request is not only in direct contrast to the law, but it also could bode horrific for future biofuels, fuels and global warming policy.
Patricia Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland CEO
Patricia Woertz, CEO of the agribusiness giant Archer Daniel Midland (ADM), wants her company to become the world's bioenergy leader. "The word 'the' is there for a purpose," said ADM CEO Patricia Woertz of the company’s goal. "It means we will be number one. It means we will be 'the' leader, not amongst the leaders, not a U.S. leader, not a leader where we choose to market or operate. It is 'the global leader in bioenergy.'" ADM's power in Washington is staggering: it lobbied the U.S. government for three decades to spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize ethanol. Woertz doesn't seem to get the big picture , claiming "we will not meet the growing demand for food in this world unless we also supply the growing demand for energy," even though using land to grow crops for fuel limits the land available to grow crops for food. ADM has partnered with oil giant, ConocoPhillips, to develop new biofuels, and is in the process of buying up smaller ethanol companies in the U.S. and Brazil. ADM is also leading importer of palm oil, a popular biofuel feedstock and a leading cause of deforestation in Southeast Asia. Ethanol was the largest single contributor to ADM's profit in 2008.