Monday, August 27, 2007

Biofuels Costing the Earth?

Increasing amounts of biofuels (substitutes for petrol or diesel made from crops such as sugar cane, beet, maize, wheat, oilseed rape and oil palm) are being produced to reduce the carbon dioxide impact of transport. But the World Land Trust argues this requires vast areas of land and is not the best way of using land to mitigate climate change. The WLT would like us all to consider the knock on effects of the increase in demand for Biofules which they feel are not currently being acknowledged. As we produce more and more rape seed here in the UK to cope with demand we leave the third world to produce our fruit and cereals which in turn forces them to clear more endangered habitat at the same time as significantly clocking up the UK's food miles. And let's not forget how the elephants of India or orangutans of Borneo who suffer in our race to find a so called 'green fuel'.

Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust and Dominick Spracklen of the University of Leeds show that much more carbon dioxide emissions can be avoided by protecting the remaining forest we have and restoring forest on arable land that is not needed for food production (Science, 17th August 2007). They argue that policy-makers would be better advised to focus on increasing the efficiency of fossil fuel use and developing carbon-free transport fuels to replace fossil hydrocarbons. Existing forests and savannahs should be conserved and natural forest and grassland habitats restored. In addition to reducing net carbon dioxide flux to the atmosphere, conversion of large areas of land back to secondary forest provides other environmental services (such as prevention of desertification, provision of forest products, maintenance of biological diversity and regional climate regulation), whereas conversion of large areas of land to make biofuels will place additional strains on the environment.


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