April 10, 2007
Office of the Chancellor
200 California Hall #1500
Berkeley, California 94720-1500
Re: Energy Biosciences Institute
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau:
Last night I heard Professor Daniel S. Rokhsar speak to the League of Women's Voters about the EBI project. This is the second presentation I have seen on this project. The first was a debate hosted by the Sierra Club a few weeks ago.
What I find most amazing is that despite Professor Rokhsar's obvious intelligence, and that of the other proponents of the project, they are still unwilling to acknowledge the simplest, most obvious of its impacts: the destruction of farmland and wildlife habitat. When I asked Professor Rokhsar about those impacts, he said "it's only research". If this is such a worthwhile project, why can't they tell the truth?! Luckily, I also heard the Sierra Club debate, where it was acknowledged that BP is interested in benefits to its bottom line. Of course!
This is not just about research. It will lead to planting exotic (non-native) grasses and trees either (1) in existing wildlife habitat (natural areas) or (2) on existing farmland. Indeed, corn is already being developed for fuel, driving up the price of corn for food and reducing land available to feed people and livestock. When I suggested to Professor Rokhsar that the University add a requirement to the project (no destruction of habitat or farmland), he acted like he hadn't heard me.
He even admitted that biodiesel will do nothing to reduce global warming. It will still put carbon into the atmosphere! It will continue our dependence on the bankrupt idea of basing our lifestyle on the use of motor vehicles. We can't get to sustainability by moving in the opposite direction.
Professor John Harte said that the equivalent of five Iowas would be needed, to replace our current fuel consumption with biodiesel. He also said that solar electricity is a far more efficient source of power than biodiesel. We could put a roof of solar panels over all of our roads, and generate far more power, without destroying one square inch of farmland or habitat. And without giving a boost to genetic engineering.
Please resist the temptation of BP's $500 million, and do the right thing: invest in something that will actually benefit humans and wildlife. We have already destroyed some 95% of the wildlife habitat in this country. We can't afford to continue down that road.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.