Biofuels: The Good, the Bad

More and more we’re seeing that the source for biofuels is critical in determining whether it produces energy with more or less carbon emissions than conventional energy.

A study published in Science concludes that even cellulosic biomass production produces more GHG than gasoline per unit of energy, averaged over the 2000-2030 time period.

The issue is whether the land used to plant fast-growing biomass crops like poplar trees and grasses would displace forests.

"In the near-term I think, irrespective of how you go about the cellulosic biofuels program, you’re going to have greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating the climate change problem," said lead author, Jerry Melillo, from the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory, to Reuters.

Another study published in Science says the United Nations ignored deforestation and other land use changes when it claimed carbon savings from biofuels and biomass.

In the end, there’s finite land on this planet – either it’s used for food, cities or forests. Something will have to give way for biomass crops.

On the other hand, the report, "Global Change Biology: Bioenergy" finds that producing biofuels from the waste in the world’s landfills could cut GHG.  Replacing gasoline with biofuels would cut GHG by 29-86% for every unit of energy.

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