Monday, February 3, 2014

Biofuels cannot help decrease greenhouse gas emissions?

Biofuels are touted by many energy experts as one of the energy options that can lead to less greenhouse gas emissions in years to come. But not everyone is thrilled with the thought of increased biofuel production. One of the latest researches coming from Italian scientist Simone Vieri of the University of Rome argues very interestingly that biofuels will primarily serve the interests of large industrial groups rather than helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and ward off climate change.

When describing policies to combat climate change, Vieri points out that the European Union has planned to increase to 10% the share of fuel derived from biofuels on the market by 2020. The problems is that EU focused attention mainly on first-generation biofuels, made from the conversion of plant material which can be grown specifically for fuel production, such as corn, soy, sugarcane or palm oil. The second-generation biofuels, made from agricultural and woody crop biomass, including waste and by-products, is still in second plan and is not expected to play major role in achieving this goal.

By further analyzing currently available data and predicting future trend Vieri highlighted that in 2020 European Union will not be able to keep to its 10% biofuels goal focusing only at European agricultural production, but will have to continue importing the greatest part of raw materials, or biofuels from abroad.

The primary focus on first generation biofuels favors „production systems that are in competition with traditional agriculture for use of resources and production factors“. It can also lead to exploitation of human and environmental resources of poorer countries. The most important conclusion however is that the agricultural production processes that change land use can lead to zero net benefit in terms of emissions reduction.

If we look at the things from market perspective there are also several important observations. For example, financial market speculation strengthens the link between the price of oil and the price of the main agricultural raw materials, and increase in agricultural product prices also can lead to devastating impact on poorer nations and their food security.

Vieri further concluded that „the choice to promote first generation biofuels is an example of how politics places the protection of the interests and profit strategies of a restricted number of subjects before the costs and benefits to be had on a wider scale“.

Failure to achieve sustainable biofuel production would only raise the profits of multinationals and count for nothing in terms of reducing the global carbon footprint. Finding the right „green economy“model can only be achieved with the sustainable biofuel production, and focusing on first generation biofuels doesn't look to be the good solution.

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