According to a recent study, biofuels might increase air pollution and reduce crop yields. This is the conclusion that a team from Lancaster University, England, reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The researchers looked into the impact of producing more biofuels as part of the scheme adopted by EU to tackle climate change.
The trees grown to produce fuel such as Poplar, Willow or Eucalyptus, reduce the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but they were found to release the chemical isoprene into the air, which reacts with other pollutants to produce ozone and could cause up to 1,400 premature deaths in Europe by 2020.
According to Nick Hewitt, the lead author of the publication, this study shows a real danger for humans and crop yields. The findings are innovative and present something that has not been considered before.
The team estimated that by 2020, in addition to the predicted premature deaths, and in their attempt to produce more biofuels, EU might suffer a great reduction in annual value of wheat and maize.
The study suggested that if the biofuel plantations are located away from polluted hotspots, this might limit the formation of ozone. The authors also suggest the use of genetic engineering to minimize the isoprene emissions.
The authors did not compare the impact of isoprene emissions with gas, oil and coal emissions. As Hewitt pointed out, it is exactly the emissions from fossil fuel burning that made EU and UN turn to biofuels.