Posting in Energy
Scientists have found that biodiesel production may release more carbon emissions than a car running on traditional diesel fuel.
Could biodiesel be worse for the environment than conventional petroleum-based diesel fuel?
Such were the findings of a coalition of 150 scientists from around the world, who last week said that the production of biofuels created a significant indirect impact on land. The scientists recommended that the European Union take immediate action.
"All the studies of land use change indicate that the emissions related to biofuels expansion are significant and can be quite large," they wrote in a letter to the European Commission.
The European Biodiesel Board dismissed the findings on the same day as unscientific.
"Can an industry like the biodiesel industry -- the number one renewable fuel industry in Europe -- be at risk of closing its production plants because of something that is not validated?" said European Biodiesel Board Secretary General Raffaello Garofalo.
The scientists' findings were based on a concept known as indirect land use change. As biofuel production expands, so too does the demand for agricultural land. Depending on how that land is acquired -- by clearing rain forests or draining peat lands, for instance -- the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere can nullify any savings in carbon emissions that might result from using the biodiesel as fuel.
The debate is unlikely to be resolved soon, and any action take by the European Commission could deal a serious blow to the E.U.'s $17.5 billion biodiesel industry. It could also open the door for other biofuels, such as Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, to expand their presence in European markets.
Photo: Dag Endresen/Flickr
Oct 10, 2011
Biodiesel takes carbon from the atmosphere, turns it into a fuel, and then can use that carbon again when the fuel is burned. So it is a closed loop and therefore no increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Petroleum based Diesel cannot offer the same benefit. Biodiesel can/should be produced on land with no agricultural value. i.e. "No carrots, cabbage or wheat were harmed in the making of this biodiesel!" That is surely just sound economic sense. If that isn't happening.... sack your properties and infrastructure manager. So, who is paying the salaries of the scientists who made these claims? Is it companies who have vested interests in petroleum based fuels. Are they using scientists as the mouthpiece for their concerns, to create false concern regarding biodiesel? Green technologies won't make it to commercialisation without sound financial numbers, and using valuable land with other production benefits isn't financially sound. Furthermore if the Green tech developers are really green? then they wouldn't be so dumb as to do something so Un-Green. Which brings us back to the question about the scientists and their salaries.
Biodiesel is the most sustainable liquid fuel there is. In addition to direct GHG reduction in excess of 85% compared to average petroleum diesel, biodiesel also reduces air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hyrdrocarbons and smog-forming particulate matter. Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable. Biodiesel reduces hazardous waste production by 96% compared to fossil fuels. Many outdated hypotheses about indirect land use are faulty, because they failed to adequately include the contribution of valuable, nutritious protein as a coproduct of biodiesel production. There is a big difference between 150 scientists agreeing that the issue needs study and concluding the biofuels are worse than petroleum. Science is indeed vindicating biodiesel. The United State Environmental Protection Agency concluded through a lengthy process including expert and public review that biodiesel reduces GHG emissions enough to be called ???Advanced Biofuel???. Even by including international indirect emissions, science concluded that biodiesel is significantly better than petroleum diesel. If the study now being launched in Europe is legitimate, it will include the contribution of protein to the food supply, and biodiesel will be recognized as a necessity for reducing greenhouse gases.
I am amazed that this continues to be an issue. Soybeans are NEVER grown for biodiesel. Soybeans are a high protein food source. 80% of the bean is high protein meal. The remaining 20% is the oil which is used for many uses including biodiesel. The more soybean oil based biodiesel only occurs if there is more high protein food.
Dear Madame, I suggest to better research the issue before speculating about Europeans expanding plant production for biofuels on hithreto non-arable land. The only regions on this planet doing this are in Africa, America and in the Far East. European farmers are barred by the CAP to do this and this is strictly enforced. The worst offenders regarding excessive excess carbon dioxide creation l??ve in Brasilia, the Caribbean and North America from sugar cane and corn (maize) production - it is the Ethanol industry selling most of its products to North Amercian car drivers loving the stuff for its higher energy content and therefore stronger engines making cars faster.
Brazilian ethanol is a good example as it's cheaper than gas but we know that farmers have been clearing rain forrest for years to grow sugar cane. Something most people in goverment and business seem to be missing is that like the hippies collecting used fryer oil to fuel their diesels, bio fuels real value is when it's made from post consumer waste. I have recently seen in the news that more than 40% of food in North America is put to landfill so I wonder how much extra farm land is really needed?
Every suggestion made for reducing carbon emissions has a cost, either economic, environmental, or both. The hard part is deciding which costs are more tolerable. When will people realize there is no magic bullet?
There is a major push in the US to use soybeans for bio-fuel. The feds have been funding research for almost a decade. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag299
Ethanol has a far lower energy content that gasoline. Ethanol creates more smog than using regular gas, and the EPA's own attorneys had to admit that fact in front of the justices presiding over the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995 (API v. EPA). All fuels laced with ethanol reduce the vehicle's fuel efficiency, and the E85 blend drops gas mileage between 30% and 40%, depending on whether you use the EPA's fuel mileage standards (fueleconomy.gov) or those of the Dept. of Energy. If Ethanol had been pitched not by Progressives but America's own oil industry, they'd be accused of attempting to ???water down??? American's fuel to rip off consumers. Ralph Nader would be filing class action lawsuits on behalf of all consumers for the losses in lower mileage and damage to automobile engines, and Al Gore would go on a rampage about the increased net carbon footprint and other environmental damage because of the resource intensive nature of producing Ethanol.
Sugar cane is not being planted on the old rain forest. They are using the land for cattle farming instead. If you look the Brazilian maps, sugar cane plantation follow the original colonial models, started by the Portuguese centuries ago. The really bad thing is it replaces the food production and that affects even those who can't afford to have cars, because a hectare producing cane does not produce corn, thus that grain cost raises in the market.
Look at what Koennigsegg gets out of an E100 engine versus the same engine running on gas. At the same fuel economy, they lose 200hp running on petrol. Your problem is that you're looking at the impact on fuel economy on the crap engines GM and Ford were making 10-20 years ago. Ethanol has less energy than gasoline, just like diesel does, but it IS more efficient, for the same reasons diesel is, which is why F1 and Indycar switched over years ago. Get a better car. That said land use to in acres to energy in biodiesel to acre to energy in ethanol is can't be much worse. If the argument is don't make biodiesel buy Brazilian ethanol, they can't do math.