Saturday, 12 July 2008

What are biofuels?

What are biofuels?

The Telegraph UK

The arguments for and against Biofuels

· Biofuels are intended as an alternative to fossil fuels - oil, gas and coal.
· Ethanol is distilled from corn and sugar and is used as a substitute for
· Other crops such as soya, palm oil and rape seed are refined to produce a
substitute for diesel.
· Plant materials, wood, wood chippings and straw are classified as biomass
which can be burned in power stations.
· Biofuels offer a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to
conventional fossil fuels.
· The EU has a target for 2010 that 5.75% of transport fuels should come
from biological sources, but the target is unlikely to be met.
· The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) means that all petrol
sold in the UK has to include at least 2.5 per cent biofuels, rising to 5 per
cent by 2010.

Arguments for Biofuels:

· They are regarded as cleaner and more sustainable at a time when oil is
increasingly expensive.
· They will help cut harmful emissions, reduce the impact of climate
change and cut dependence on oil.
· The government believes that biofuels reduce emissions by 50-60%
compared to fossil fuels.
· Biofuels could be a much cheaper source of energy that comes from
organic matter.
· They can be grown on land not needed or unwanted for cereal crops for
· Biofuels will help farmers in poorer countries who can grow the
necessary crops.

Arguments against Biofuels:

· Some scientists and environmental groups believe biofuels do more harm
than good because of the energy needed to grow them, the use of
fertilisers and the CO2 they cause through deforestation.
· Growing crops for biofuels means that there are less food crops being
grown which translates into shortages and price rises.
· A recent World Bank report said that biofuels had pushed up food prices
by 75 per cent and led to food riots in several poor countries.
· The demand for biofuels has led to millions of acres of rainforest in
Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa and Brazil being cleared for crops.
· The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that
tropical deforestation could be as much as, 40,000 hectares daily - an
area equal to four times the size of Paris.
· The FAO estimates that 25-30 per cent of global CO2 emissions are
caused by deforestation.
· The forests act as vital natural sinks for carbon and as 'air conditioning
units' for the planet.
· The clearance of forests often spells disaster for the animals and plants
and for the people who depend on them for survival.
· Oxfam warns that 60m people in Asia, Africa and South America are
threatened with possible eviction to make way for "green" fuel
plantations, such as palm oil, soya or sugar cane.