We attended a press conference yesterday organized by the folks who are putting on tonight’s conference called by critics of UC Berkeley’s plans to build a huge new campus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory devoted in large part to genetic “engineering.”
Also in attendance was San Francisco Chronicle writer David Perlman, who wrote up a report for today’s edition, in which we find this marvelous quote dealing with one major focus of the new complex, agrofuels:
Nor would food croplands be sacrificed for new biofuels, Keesling [sic] said. The countless acres needed would be wastelands where only otherwise useless plants like switchgrasses would be grown for biofuel, he said. “There’s really no market for that kind of land,” he said.
Keasling, as the named is actually spelled, must have awakened with a considerably longer proboscis today if there’s anything to that Pinocchio tale.
Consider, for instance, that Amyris, one of the companies he started in his spare time as a UC Berkeley “bioengineer,” has partnered with French oil giant Total to development fuel plants in Brazil.
And they’re not using “useless plants” like switchgrass as the biological grist for their GMO mills: They’re using sugar cane, as a Chronicle story has reported.
Yeah, someday they hope to be using “useless plants.” But so far they haven’t figured out a way to do it.
So if you watch what they do rather than what they say, a far different picture emerges.
Now let’s do a bit more debunking.
Note that he says the “countless acres that would be needed would be wastelands.”
Those acres he’s talking about were taken out of production under the federal government’s Conservation Reservation Program because they were lands that are highly susceptible to erosion.
The program was created to avoid a repeat of the massive dust storms that led farm states to bud a decade the “Dirty Thirties.”
But they don’t just want the land. They want payments to ensure farmers don’t lose out if farming those sensitive lands doesn’t pay off.
Consider this from a January article by Todd Neeley of The Progressive Farmer:
With all the discussion about what should be in and what should be out, an advanced biofuels group has hopes that the next farm bill will provide support for advanced biofuels and a budding biomass industry.
In a news release from Advanced Biofuels USA, the group calls for retaining more agricultural land, setting a national biomass/biofuel policy and to help those advanced biofuels projects walking through the so-called ‘valley of death’ — the often risky period of time between development of new technologies and the ongoing ability to fund them, and the commercialization of those technologies.
In addition, the group said in its release that it would like to see current government farm payments “replaced by a combination of income derived from the sale of biomass and tax credits.
“For example, if the value of biomass payments falls below established CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) payments, the difference would be made up with tax credits. CRP land owners would keep any excess over the established CRP payment.”
For more background, see here.
Keasling likes to talk about how he hails from Nebraska farm country.
Maybe he should read a little more history.