UN warns on impacts of biofuels

– I am and have been suspicious of biofuels. The issues, for me, have been that we are just shuffling our problems around to obscure them from ourselves and that what we grow as biofuels will have a high probability of subtracting from what we can grow as food. There is, after all, only so much land.

– I’ve posted on this subject before (and not all of it is bad news): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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A UN report warns that a hasty switch to biofuels could have major impacts on livelihoods and the environment.

Produced by a cross-agency body, UN Energy, the report says that biofuels can bring real benefits.

But there can be serious consequences if forests are razed for plantations, if food prices rise and if communities are excluded from ownership, it says.

And it concludes that biofuels are more effective when used for heat and power rather than in transport.

“Current research concludes that using biomass for combined heat and power (CHP), rather than for transport fuels or other uses, is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade – and also one of the cheapest,” it says.

The European Union and the US have recently set major targets for the expansion of biofuels in road vehicles, for which ethanol and biodiesel are seen as the only currently viable alternative to petroleum fuels.


One Response to “UN warns on impacts of biofuels”

  1. Simon D says:

    Biofuels are an inherently bad idea, we’re just jumping into it without doing the full cost or full carbon accounting. I think the biggest outstanding question is the ‘downstream’ impact of devoting a large chunk of croplands in North America, say, to growing fuel, rather than feed and food. That food or feed has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere may be what is currently rainforest in Brazil. Take the associated downstream land use change into account, and the carbon budget of biofuels changes a lot.