Study analyses biofuel production

A report by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) suggests that despite having capacity to produce more biofuel in the UK, large amounts of it may still need to be imported.

The report claims that given the potential of Brazil to produce an ethanol surplus of around 15.7 billion litres by 2020, Europe may need to realign its strategy for meeting its biofuel target through an imported gasoline pool.

Commenting on the report, Friends of the Earth’s biofuels campaigner, Kenneth Richter, said: ‘The biofuel industry has finally admitted that if the UK is to meet its high targets for biofuels virtually all biodiesel for use in diesel cars will have to be imported from overseas.’

He added: ‘Increasing bioethanol production here in Britain for use in our petrol is expensive – the main reason only eight per cent of biofuels were produced here last year – and the intensification of agriculture needed would come with serious environmental consequences.

‘Biofuels are ineffective at tackling climate change. The government should be investing in the solutions we know will cut carbon emissions, such as smarter cars that use less fuel and incentives to get people walking, cycling and using public transport.’

A separate report released this week by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) suggests that carbon loss stemming from the displacement of food crops and pastures for biofuels crops may be twice as much as the CO2 emissions from land dedicated to biofuel production.

Leading the research, senior scientist at MBL, Jerry Melillo, said: ‘Our analysis, which we think is the most comprehensive to date, shows that direct and indirect land-use changes associated with an aggressive global biofuels programme have the potential to release large quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.’

The study also predicts that increased fertiliser use for biofuels production will cause nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) to become more important than carbon losses, in terms of global warming, by the end of the century.