One alternative source of energy grows in trees…or almost! I’m talking about plants involved in the production of biofuels, like sugarcane, corn or palm oil. At the time it was discovered, this conversion seemed like a pretty good idea, so governments all over the world a few years ago came up with incentives and tax advantages to encourage such crops. However, time has proven otherwise.
In a leaked report obtained by EurActiv, it seems that the EU discovered the environmental impact was underestimated and is set to review the laws accordingly. These had been passed back in 2009 to ensure 10% of the fuel quantity was to come from renewable sources, including plants.
In consequence, Brazil, one of world’s largest sugarcane producers, modified a big part of if its infrastructure to suit such requirements, while the US farmers received tax breaks to grow corn, out of which ethanol is being made.
This didn’t end up too well: people here started to use too much land in this sense and food prices just rocketed. Likewise in other countries: take Malaysia, where farmers became blind-sighted by the profit and used the land for growing palm for oil instead of food.
To keep the population from starving, they began deforesting new land for food and that’s what affected the environment. The carbon dioxide outputted during these clearings was what compromised the actual goal of the crops.
The EU began quantifying these factors that apparently outgrow the carbon emissions and this is what showed through: oil extraction from Canada’s tar sand pits produces 107g of carbon dioxide per megajoule of energy, closely followed by palm oil with 105g, whereas gasoline is below 90g. I guess I won’t be making a mistake if I predict fuel made of plants won’t have a growing future…