In honor of today being Earth Day, here’s a piece of stunning climate change-related news.
A new report finds that bio- or green fuels made from soy beans actually cause 4 times more climate-warming carbon emissions than fossil fuels such as oil or diesel!
Louise Gray writes in the UK’s Telegraph, April 22, 2010:
The European Union, including the UK, has set a goal of obtaining 10% of its road fuels from renewable sources by 2020. But a new report commissioned in Brussels found some biofuels can lead to four times more carbon dioxide polluting the atmosphere than equivalent fossil fuels.Biofuels have already been criticised for causing food shortages in countries where land for rice or wheat has been displaced by fields of soy beans or sugarcane for fuel.
The report for the European Commission, released under Freedom of Information rules, looked into the “indirect emissions” from biofuels caused by land use change. The worse example is soy beans in America. Because the land that used to grow soy beans for animal feed is now being used for biofuels, it means that more soy beans must be grown in the rainforests of Brazil to make up for the loss in the domestic market. Soybeans grown in America therefore have an indirect carbon footprint of 340kg of CO2 per gigajoule, compared to just 85kg for conventional diesel or gasoline.
Biodiesel from European rapeseed has an indirect carbon footprint of 150kg of CO2 per gigajoule, while bioethanol from European sugar beet is calculated at 100kg – both much higher than conventional diesel because of indirect use of land in other countries to replace the food crops that are no longer grown in Europe.
By contrast, imports of bioethanol from Latin American sugar cane and palm oil from southeast Asia have relatively low indirect emissions at 82kg and 73kg per gigajoule respectively. But these biofuels have high direct emissions because although no land for food is being displaced, rainforest is being cut down to grow the crops in the first place.
The European Commission insisted that biofuels is a complex issue and further studies need to be done.
But Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said the report proves that biofuels are not the answer to tackling climate change. “Most of the crops used for biofuels at the moment produce more emissions than fossil fuels therefore biofuel targets in Europe make no sense and are doing opposite of what they are supposed to be doing,” he said.
Happy Earth Day, everyone!