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Producing Biofuel From Food Crops Could Generate More CO2 Than Burning Petrol, Study Says

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In a desperate effort to stop global warming due to CO2 emissions, the concerned people’s first resort is to produce biofuels and use them in engines. But current incentives that promote biofuels will be pushing farmers around Europe to grow mainly food crops on usable food crop lands.

And that’s a chain-reaction problem that will affect prices and the overall availability of food, which is a vital issue to poor people.

Some environmental groups warned the European Commission’s energy team after reaching this conclusion by analyzing data on the EU’s goal of getting 10 percent of the fuel from renewables by 2020. The numbers say that the biofuels that are going to be produced in the next decade’s Europe will generate between 81 and 167 percent more CO2 than fossil fuels (on a complete, global analysis, including fertilizers and the side-effects the biofuel crops will generate).

Moreover, 23 of the 27 member states of the EU have recently revealed already that 9.5 percent of transport fuel will consist in biofuels by 2020, and 90 percent of that biofuel will come from food crops.

Still, the bet is now on electrification. More and more people hope to finally get rid of those internal combustion engines and promote the cleaner electric motors, with batteries or hydrogen as power carriers and no carbon emissions on their tailpipes whatsoever.

On the other hand, the European Commission’s energy team, who formulated the goal in the first place, sustain their decisions by saying that the lands used will be abandoned farmlands in Europe and Asia, thus diminishing the direct effect on food prices.

The European Commission’s energy team says shortfalls in grain can be avoided in several ways, including by improving farming yields and cultivating abandoned land.

“The EU has a sufficient amount of land previously used for crop production and now no longer in arable use to cover the land needed,” said a statement from the Commission’s energy department. “It makes sense to bring this land into use.”

A newly-invented concept, known as “indirect-land-use change” influences the debates around the biofuel issue. Essentilly, the concept addresses the replacement of a land that is being used for growing biofuel crops with another one, elsewhere, once the first began producing the biofuel crop, so that nobody will starve to death because of the missing grain field, for example. An extra mention is that the entrepreneurs aren’t to cut forests for growing crops.

To make yourself a picture about what the EU’s biofuel strategy really means, imagine an extra 26 million cars on Europe’s roads. That’s the equivalent of the 27 to 56 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year that the target will put into the atmosphere. Of course, being grown locally, part of the CO2 will get reabsorbed by the following biofuel crops, but these figures are only the surplus added to the quantity that is going to get reabsorbed.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Information about causing a food shortage due to making ethonal is inaccurate and misleading. The by products of making ethonal – the mash left from the process of making ethonal from grain produces more lbs of grain on livestock per lb of grain after the production of ethonal than prior to the process. The sweat water another by product can be used for along with the feed or can be used in greenhousing. We could feed more people not less people. (Note: Like sprouted bean or alfalfa sprouts the enzimes are more active and we get approx 3X as much food value)
    Seems some people over react to false information from those that don’t want to switch from fossel fuels.

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