Thursday, 1 November 2007

Are biofuels a cure that is worse than the disease?

Since Western Governments have started introducing biofuel quotas, the amount of damage done to forests and species has increased. I want to see good green practises like the collection and use of oil collected from restaurants, and research into producing biofuel from agricultural waste products and algae grown on lakes. Recently the OECD looked at this increase in 'dodgy' sources fuel; where less land is available for food production and species like the Orangutang are under increased pressure. However with peak oil and increasing fuel price, we need to be looking at sustainable fuel sources, but not at the cost of the environment.

In a report on the impact of biofuels, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said biofuels may "offer a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal. The current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits," the OECD said. "When acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel," it added. The OECD called on governments to cut their subsidies for the sector and instead encourage research into technologies that would avoid competing for land use with food production. "Governments should cease to create new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out," it said.

The OECD said tax incentives put in place in many regions, including the European Union and the United States, to encourage biofuel output could hide other objectives. "Biofuel policies may appear to be an easy way to support domestic agriculture against the backdrop of international negotiations to liberalize agricultural trade," it said. Instead it encouraged members of the World Trade Organization to step efforts to lower barriers to biofuel imports to allow developing countries that have ecological and climate systems more suited to biomass production. The OECD also encouraged government to work on cutting demand for transport fuel rather than encouraging production of so-called "green" fuels.
The OECD, which said in July that it saw biofuels keeping prices at high levels into the next decade, said it would lead to an unavoidable "food-versus-fuel" debate.
"Any diversion of land from food or feed production to production of energy biomass will influence food prices from the start, as both compete for the same input," it said.

Extracts from September 11 2007

Examples of good practice in biofuel production, from used oil. in Oxford Based near Swansea

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