Today the BBC ran a story entitled “UN Warns on Hazards of Biofuels” where they conclude “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.”
The report also correctly points out that “demand for biofuels has accelerated the clearing of primary forest for palm plantations, particularly in southeast Asia.”
There’s more: The report notes water is a concern, stating “The expanding world population and the on-going switch towards consumption of meat and dairy produce as incomes rise are already putting pressure on freshwater supplies, which increased growing of biofuel crops could exacerbate.”
These problems with biofuels, which we have explored in-depth in several posts, including “Ethanol & Water,” “Deforestation & Global Warming,” and literally dozens of others (ref. post categories Biofuel and Global Warming), can be boiled down to the following position: Global warming alarm, primarily manifested as a war against industrial CO2 emissions, has had one major impact so far, which is to launch devastating new rounds of tropical deforestation, which is exacerbating global drought, extreme weather, water scarcity, wildlife destruction, and, you guessed it, global warming.
There is a need for biofuel certification, and the ugly inconvenient truth is if you came up with a comprehensive set of criteria for biofuel certification, there may not be any environmentally justifiable reason to grow biofuel, other than in certain low yield applications in arid regions to stablize soil, and within contained, factory environments. Here are some of the criteria biofuel needs to meet:
(1) Biofuel cannot displace food crops.
(2) Biofuel cannot displace rainforest.
(3) Biofuel cannot displace critical wildlife habitat.
(4) Production of biofuel must be decisively energy positive.
(5) Biofuel must not exacerbate water scarcity, either in the growing or the refining process.
(6) Biofuel plantations cannot exploit local labor, or exclude local ownership.
(7) Biofuel use should be encouraged in the most efficient applications, such as combined heat and power, and not automatically be directed into the automotive sector.
(8) Biofuel produced using cellulosic extraction must not prevent valuable organic matter from returning to the soil.
Any other criteria? When viewed against these criteria, the potential for an environmentally correct biofuel industry becomes far more problematic than is generally acknowledged.
Whatever happened to “Save the Rainforests?”