Biofuel usage has increased considerably in recent years, mostly driven by government mandates to find cleaner fuel options. But a new UN report brings into question how environmentally friendly these biofuels actually are.
The report, from the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, suggests that before we start patting ourselves on the back for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using biofuels, we really need to examine more closely the environmental effects of producing ethanol and other renewable transportation fuels.
Using a life-cycle approach to the issue, the report states that further research is needed to discover the impact that producing biofuels has on a region’s biodiversity, land, air, waterways and numerous other environmental concerns.
Some biofuels, after all, are much more environmentally friendly than others. For example, using sugar cane derived biofuel has the potential to reduce emissions by up to 100 percent, but using biofuel made from palm oil on deforested land has the opposite effect.
Further research and debate about these differences, the report suggests, would not only help determine which energy crops to grow and where, but also provide clearer definitions and criteria for distinguishing the degree of sustainability of various biofuels.
Read full report here.