08 February 2008 12:47 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS news)-The conversion of land to produce biofuels crops contributes to global warming rather than reducing it, according to a study by the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy published on Friday in US journal Science.
Researchers said that when native ecosystems are switched to farm biofuels, the level of carbon released into the atmosphere outweighs the carbon saved from using renewable, rather than fossil, fuels.
“The research examines the conversion of land and asks ‘Is it worth it?'," said Joe Fargione of the Nature Conservancy, one of the study’s lead authors. “Surprisingly, the answer is no.”
According to the study, converted land used for biofuels can pump out anywhere between 17 and 423 times more carbon than the yearly savings from replacing fossil fuels with biofuels.
This effectively creates a “carbon debt” which the biofuels produced must pay off before they can said to be contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you are trying to mitigate global warming, it simply does not make sense to convert land for biofuels production,” said Fargione.
As a possible solution, the study group advocate the use of biofuels produced from waste plants material such as corn stover or from native grasses and woody plants grown on marginal lands unsuitable for crops.
“Perennial crops grown on degraded land that is no longer useful for growing food crops may actually help us fight global warming,” said co-author Jason Hill.
The group called for an end to the destruction of pristine lands abroad, and say laws and treaties should be introduced to guarantee responsible practices for growing, producing and distributing biofuels.
Bookmark Simon Robinson's Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels
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