[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]
In an article entitled “Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt,” Fargione et al. (2008) explore what happens when non-agricultural lands are cleared for the growing of biofuel crops. In addition to the destruction of precious habitat needed to support what could be called “wild nature,” this process releases large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere due to the burning and microbial decomposition of organic carbon stored in plant biomass and soils. And this initial “carbon debt” must be repaid before there is any net reduction in CO2 emissions from the use of the biofuel crops grown on the newly-cleared land.