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Biofuels

Reactions

January 12, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 2

 

Letters to the editor

Research’s effects

09702-reactions-oil.jpg
Credit: Claire Benjamin/University of Illinois
A researcher examines plant oil that can be converted into biodiesel and jet biofuel.

It was very educational to read “Giving Plant Oils a Boost with Gene Editing” by Cici Zhang in the Nov. 26, 2018, issue of C&EN (page 12) and the article “Fuel to the Fire” by Abrahm Lustgarten in the Nov. 25, 2018, New York Times Magazine. The C&EN article notes, “But some scientists doubt the sustainability of biofuels, pointing to the land, water, and other resources required to produce them.” The NY Times article notes the devastation in Indonesia and Borneo due to the removal of forests for the production of palm oil: “Researchers at Columbia and Harvard later estimated that the fires [from forest removal] led to 100,000 premature deaths.”

I am thinking that every request for research funding should have a documented determination of the possible effects of the research. It is hard for scientists to determine the effects of their research, so they should collaborate with environmentalists and economists or other appropriate experts. However, that may be risky, as the Times article notes “at least eight assassinations of Indonesian environmentalists fighting palm oil.”

Kathryn Lee
Basking Ridge, New Jersey

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