The European Union’s target of ensuring 10% of petrol and diesel comes from renewable sources by 2020 is not an effective way to curb carbon emissions. Australia must also avoid this path as a ‘solution’ to our increasing CO2 .
A team of UK-based scientists suggested that reforestation and habitat protection was a better option. Writing in the magazine Science, they said that, given the same area of land, forests could absorb up to nine times more CO2 than the production of biofuels could save. The increasing demand for land to grow biofuels was also leading to more deforestation, they added.
“On the same area of land, forests could absorb up to nine times more CO2 than the production of biofuels could save.”
Dr Righelato, co-author of the study and chairman of the World Land Trust, said that the biofuel policy could actually lead to more forest destruction. Developing countries may be encouraged to cut down their forests to plant biofuel crops in order to meet the growing demand for renewable fuels. The study compared the amount of carbon absorbed by a forested area over a 30-year period with the total emissions avoided by using biofuels instead of fossil fuels during this time. They calculated that forests store 100300 tonnes per hectare.
However, Australian research estimates forests can store up to 1,500 tonnes per hectare. The so-called second-generation biofuels, those using feed stocks such as straw, grasses and wood (wood?!) rather than grains or palm oil, offered a much better opportunity to reduce CO2. But until the price of grain rises fivefold, these other feed stocks won’t be able to compete with grains and palm oil on price.
There is also global concern that using food crops for biofuels could not only jeopardise food availability but also water.
Jill / BBC News