Rapeseed and maize biofuels produce more greenhouse gas than oil or petro (23/9/2007)

1.Rapeseed biofuel 'produces more greenhouse gas than oil or petrol'
2.Friends of the Earth rejects EU biofuels targets

ACTION: Call for an immediate moratorium on EU incentives for agrofuels


1.Rapeseed biofuel 'produces more greenhouse gas than oil or petrol'
The Times, September 22 2007

A renewable energy source designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is contributing more to global warming than fossil fuels, a study suggests.

Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save.

Other biofuels, especially those likely to see greater use over the next decade, performed better than fossil fuels but the study raises serious questions about some of the most commonly produced varieties.

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

"One wants rational decisions rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon because superficially something appears to reduce emissions," said Keith Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the researchers.

Maize for ethanol is the prime crop for biofuel in the US where production for the industry has recently overtaken the use of the plant as a food. In Europe the main crop is rapeseed, which accounts for 80 per cent of biofuel production.

Professor Smith told Chemistry World: "The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuels are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto."

It was accepted by the scientists that other factors, such as the use of fossil fuels to produce fertiliser, have yet to be fully analysed for their impact on overall figures. But they concluded that the biofuels "can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2 O emissions than cooling by fossil-fuel savings".

The research is published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, where it has been placed for open review. The research team was formed of scientists from Britain, the US and Germany, and included Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on ozone.

Dr Franz Conen, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, described the study as an "astounding insight".

"It is to be hoped that those taking decisions on subsidies and regulations will in future take N2O emissions into account and promote some forms of 'biofuel' production while quickly abandoning others," he told the journal's discussion board.

Dr Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, used the findings to calculate that with the US Senate aiming to increase maize ethanol production sevenfold by 2022, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will rise by 6 per cent.


2.Friends of the Earth rejects EU biofuels targets
Website EAS, 11/09/2007

Environmental group Friends of the Earth is calling for the EU Commission to scrap its target for using plant-based biofuels for transport, after a leaked paper revealed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; has grave concerns about their social and environmental effects. "Hurtling headfirst down the biofuels path will be a big mistake," said Friends of the Earth’s Adrian Bebb. "The EU risks stimulating further destruction and poverty in developing countries if it sticks with its current biofuels target."

The report raises numerous concerns, including:

The environmental impact of biofuels can be even worse than that of petrol and diesel, as natural forests, wetlands and pasture will be replaced with dedicated crops grown for energy.

Large-scale expansion of biofuels will significantly impact on the wider global economy, as food will get increasingly expensive for at least the next ten years.

Within the background document are two critical recommendations:

Governments should not create new mandates for biofuels and should instead phase out their current support.

More attention should be focused on reducing energy demand and improving vehicle efficiency as this will cost less than subsidising inefficient biofuels.

European heads of state agreed in March this year that 10% of transport fuels should be met by plant-based biofuels by 2020. The target however is conditional on biofuels being produced sustainably and also on the successful commercialisation of so-called 'second generation fuels', which are produced by converting biomass to liquid.

The OECD paper questions whether either are possible. "The EU should put the brakes on biofuels by dropping its recently-adopted target and forcing the automobile industry to clean up their cars. Biofuels are a false substitute for actually improving vehicle efficiency and taxpayers money should instead be used to support real solutions to our climate and energy problems."


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