Greenhouse gases

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Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are a category of substances, which, under their gaseous form, have a greenhouse effect upon the atmosphere. By preventing infrared radiation to escape the atmosphere (this phenomenon happens naturally to evacuate a part of the heat accumulated by the earth through the ultraviolet radiation from the sun), they contribute to make its temperature increase.

Contents

Types

The following are major greenhouse gases.

Water (H2O, gaseous)

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Methane

Methane (CH4) is produced through the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter, such as in through the digestion of food (significant in the case of ruminants, see livestock) or from sewage and other wastes. The capture and use of methane (biogas, from solid waste) is an important emissions reduction approach. For more information see the landfill gas collection and biogas sections.

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

Ozone (O3, tropospheric)

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC)

Perfluorocarbons (PFC)

Links

Resources/Reports

  • Greenhouse Gas Accounting: Lifecycle Analysis of Biofuels and Land Use Change by John A. Miranowski for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 23 April 2012. "By definition, an LCA [lifecycle analysis] is a comprehensive accounting of all the energy inputs into the process and outputs out of the process, including GHG and other emissions. Ideally, sustainability should be incorporated into the system. Others have argued that increased GHG emissions in the biofuel system from global LUC [land use change] should be included in the LCA for biofuel as well."
    • "The high level of uncertainty created by model incompatibility and by aggregate agricultural models not capable of capturing necessary refinements in LUC and agricultural management practices has led to two positions on including indirect LUC in LCA models. First, we know that indirect LUC and associated GHG emissions are not zero, so we are doing a disservice to society by not including them in LCA estimates, even though the “confidence interval” is extremely wide (Hertel et al., 2010). Second, we do not have the tools to obtain a reasonably accurate estimate of the GHG emission effects of indirect LUC, and we are doing a disservice by trying to measure the unmeasurable (Babcock, 2009b)."
    • "Although there are a number of qualifiers, the same LCA model should be used to derive GHG

emission estimates when comparing different feedstocks or different fuels since cross-model comparisons simply highlight model differences (i.e., it is important to create a stable market environment when comparing fuels). Yet, in order to provide a complete understanding of the sensitivity of LCA results and policy impacts to model assumptions, it is important to consider alternative LCA models (and assumptions)." [[2]

  • Accounting for Indirect Land Use Change in the Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuel Supply Chains by Susan Tarka Sanchez, Jeremy Woods, Mark Akhurst, Matthew Brander, Michael O'Hare, Terence P. Dawson, Robert Edwards, Adam J. Liska and Rick Malpas, March 2012. "We analyse the use of life cycle analysis (LCA) for estimating the carbon intensity of biofuel production from indirect land-use change (ILUC). Two approaches are critiqued: direct, attributional life cycle analysis and consequential life cycle analysis (CLCA)...We conclude that CLCA is applicable for estimating the historic emissions from ILUC, although improvements to the hybrid approach proposed, coupled with regular updating, are required, and uncertainly values must be adequately represented; however, the scope and the depth of the expansion of the system boundaries required for CLCA remain controversial." [3]
  • Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral by Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Christian Körner, Beverly E. Law, Helmut Haber, and Sebastiaan Luyssaert, April 2012. "Owing to the peculiarities of forest net primary production humans would appropriate ca. 60% of the global increment of woody biomass if forest biomass were to produce 20% of current global primary energy supply. We argue that such an increase in biomass harvest would result in younger forests, lower biomass pools, depleted soil nutrient stocks and a loss of other ecosystem functions."
    • "The proposed strategy is likely to miss its main objective, i.e. to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, because it would result in a reduction of biomass pools that may take decades to centuries to be paid back by fossil fuel substitution, if paid back at all.
    • "Eventually, depleted soil fertility will make the production unsustainable and require fertilization, which in turn increases GHG emissions due to N2O emissions. Hence, large-scale production of bioenergy from forest biomass is neither sustainable nor GHG neutral." [4]
  • Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils by The Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2012."Global demand for vegetable oils has recently increased, which impacts not only the global economy, but also the atmosphere and ecosystems. Increasing demand for vegetable oils has traditionally translated into demand for more land to grow oil crops... Over the last decade much of that land has come at the expense of tropical forests, and this is particularly true for palm and soybean oil."
    • "Our report, Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils examines the vegetable oil market and details how businesses can produce and use vegetable oil without causing deforestation." [5]
  • The Effect of Assessment Scale and Metric Selection on the Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Woody Biomass by Christopher S. Galik and Robert C. Abt, February 2012. "Recent media attention has focused on the net greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of using woody biomass to produce energy. In particular, a great deal of controversy has erupted over the biomass accounting techniques used to evaluate these GHG effects."
    • "This paper informs the present debate over the GHG effects of woody biomass use by conducting a comparative analysis of these accounting techniques. It compares these techniques in a hypothetical scenario in which coal-fired power plants in Virginia add woody biomass to their fuel mix—a process known as 'cofiring.' It finds that these techniques strongly influence the calculated GHG balance. The paper also assesses the relative effect of the accounting approach on differences in GHG balance, and concludes with implications for policy makers." [6]
  • A review of environmental issues in the context of biofuel sustainability frameworks by M.R. Guariguata, O.R. Masera, F.X. Johnson, G. von Maltitz, N. Bird, P. Tella, R. Martínez-Bravo, 2011. "This report examines how the most developed sustainability frameworks for feedstock production (including biofuels) address key environmental issues. It identifies critical gaps in these frameworks and proposes areas for improvement. The main finding is that the frameworks share broad sustainability principles yet they differ greatly in terms of their comprehensiveness and how they apply specific indicators for environmental issues, particularly with respect to land use change (both direct and indirect), allocation of degraded land for feedstock cultivation, and related accounting of greenhouse gas emissions."
  • Biogenic vs. geologic carbon emissions and forest biomass energy production] by John S. Gunn, David J. Ganz, and William S. Keeton, September 2011. "This report presents the opinion that this is an inappropriate conceptual basis to assess the atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting of woody biomass energy generation. While there are many other environmental, social, and economic reasons to move to woody biomass energy, we argue that the inferred benefits of biogenic emissions over fossil fuel emissions should be reconsidered."[10]
  • Land Use Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Conventional Oil Production and Oil Sands by Sonia Yeh, Sarah Jordaan, Adam Brandt, Merritt Turetsky, Sabrina Spatari, and David Keith, October 2010. "When contrasting land use GHG intensity of fossil fuel and biofuel production, it is the energy yield that greatly distinguishes the two. Although emissions released from land disturbed by fossil fuels can be comparable or higher than biofuels, the energy yield of oil production is typically 2-3 orders of magnitude higher, (0.33-2.6, 0.61-1.2, and 2.2-5.1 PJ/ha) for conventional oil production, oil sands surface mining, and in situ production, respectively."[14]
Relative GHG emissions reduction potentials for ethanol by feedstock type. These estimates refer to direct emissions only, and do not include emissions from land use change. Source: Worldwatch Issue Brief: U.S. Biofuels: Climate Change and Policies (PDF file)
  • Greenhouse gas fluxes from tropical peatlands in south-east Asia (PDF) by John Couwenberg, Rene Dommain, and Hans Joosten HANS, June 2010. "This paper provides a review and meta-analysis of available literature on greenhouse gas fluxes from tropical peat soils in south-east Asia. As in other parts of the world, water level is the main control on greenhouse gas fluxes from south-east Asian peat soils. Based on subsidence data we calculate emissions of at least 900 g CO2 m−2 a−1 (∼250 g C m−2 a−1) for each 10 cm of additional drainage depth."[16]
  • Biofuels: indirect land use change and climate impact (PDF) by H.J. Croezen, G.C. Bergsma, M.B.J. Otten and M.P.J. van Valkengoed, June 2010. "The objectives of this study are to compile the available recent literature on ILUC emissions, compare these emissions with the assumed gains of biofuels, assess how ILUC changes the carbon balance of using biofuels and formulate policies to avoid these extra emissions associated with ILUC."
  • The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy (PDF) by Joanneum Research, May 2010. When a raw material such as wood is burned, "the time needed to re-absorb the CO2 emitted in the atmosphere can be long, depending very much on the source of wood. This delay can create an upfront “carbon debt” that would substantially reduce the capability of bioenergy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the atmosphere in the short to medium term."
  • The Copenhagen Accord Fact Sheet (PDF) by the National Wildlife Federation, April 2010. This report highlights the outcomes of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Copenhagan in December of 2009.
    • "While the Copenhagen Accord falls short of this benchmark, it does represent a step forward by acquiring voluntary pledges from both developed and developing nations to make new commitments to address their emissions, allowing some third-party oversight of these actions, and providing crucial “fast start” financing to help the least developed countries that will be the most impacted by climate change. The Copenhagen Accord also marks the first time that major emitting developing countries such as China and India, have put forward pledges to the UN to reduce the future growth of their emissions."[17]

News

2012

  • ‘This must be the most researched subject in the EU’s history!’, 19 March 2012 by Nusa Urbancic for European Federation for Transport and Environment: "Two new reports are expected to put more pressure on the Commission over its biofuels policy. Both add to the growing bank of evidence that under current policies, changes in land use caused by growing biofuels crops will wipe out the climate benefits of using certain biofuels, especially in the case of biodiesel."
    • "One report on the cost-effectiveness of policies to decarbonise transport, due to be published by a group of consultancies later this month, says most models show that indirect land-use change (Iluc) will mean ‘a net increase of greenhouse gases’ for biodiesel. The other report, also still to be published, says that if biofuels’ lifecycle emissions, rather than just direct emissions, from Iluc are taken into account, the EU would achieve little more than half its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050." [19]
  • EU carbon target threatened by biomass 'insanity' 2 April 2012 by Arthur Neslen for EurActiv: "The EU's emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU's renewable energy objectives for 2020."
    • "On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles."
    • "Around half of the EU's target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states' national action plans... Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as 'carbon neutral', giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level."
    • "But because there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted – and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one – biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim." [20]
  • Environmental burden shifting and sustainability criteria for biofuels, 26 March 2012 by Anil Baral for ICCT blog: "Biofuels are here for three reasons – climate change mitigation, energy security and to increase rural incomes. The supposed climate change mitigation potential of biofuels comes with the idea that renewability implies carbon neutrality. However, with the introduction of the systems approach of analyzing environmental costs and benefits, it has emerged that biofuels, especially first generation biofuels, do not offer environmental and human health benefits on all fronts. The systems approach, such as life cycle analysis (LCA), looks into far ranging impacts including GHG emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC). We find that in many cases we may not expect to achieve net greenhouse gas reductions from biofuel policies – but also that even where climate change mitigation might be effective, there can be other tradeoffs in choosing biofuels, indicating a potential risk of environmental burden shifting for policies that solely focus on GHG mitigation." [21]
  • Biofuels About More Than Climate 21 March 2012 by Alessandro Torello, (blog) for Wall Street Journal: "Biofuels have been heavily promoted in the European Union as the most straightforward way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from transport."
    • "Other ways of doing it are a more distant prospect. Electric cars are making a push, but are still some way from taking off, as are other innovative technologies. Biofuels, meanwhile, are perfectly compatible with combustion engines used today and are–more or less–readily available... They are considered greener than gasoline and [[diesel based on fossil fuels because their carbon dioxide emissions –just the same as regular fuels when burned in an engine–are offset by the plants that are grown to produce them."
    • "Now, however, a phenomenon called Indirect Land Use Change –or ILUC, in Brussels jargon– is calling into question their green credentials." [22]
  • ANALYSIS-Biodiesel doubts threaten EU green transport targets, 5 March 2012 by Charlie Dunmore and Ivana Sekularac, in Sharenet: "Growing consensus that EU may miss 2020 biofuel targets... Demand for biodiesel threatened by land use change studies... Switch to bioethanol seen as unlikely to make up shortfall."
    • "The European Union will almost certainly miss its 2020 targets for cutting transport fuel emissions if policymakers act on scientific warnings about the climate impact of biofuels."
    • "Several EU studies have questioned the climate benefits of biodiesel made from European rapeseed and imported palm oil and soybeans, and some have warned that it releases as many climate-warming emissions as conventional diesel."
    • "With two-thirds of EU biofuel use in 2020 projected to come from biodiesel, there is a growing consensus that any move to exclude some biodiesel feedstocks, such as the U.S. has proposed in the case of palm oil, would put the goals out of reach. Even if Europe tried to boost its use of bioethanol and advanced biofuels from non-crop sources to make up the shortfall, technical barriers and the EU's rising thirst for diesel would still leave it short of the mark." [23]
  • Well, Is Bioenergy Carbon Neutral Or Not? by John Bonitz in CleanEnergy Footprints, from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: "Decades of science show us that biopower from forestry residuals has been helpful to reducing our total greenhouse gas emissions. However, equally clear in recent studies is the fact that all energy sources have costs, and some take longer to repay these costs: Not all biomass energy is ‘climate friendly’ in the short term.... Recently, there have been four noteworthy efforts to grapple with similar questions surrounding biomass."
  • US Report Casts Doubt On Palm Fuel Benefits, 8 February 2012 by Jakarta Globe: "Indonesia has come under greater scrutiny over its policy to encourage palm oil development, following a report by US authorities that fuels derived from the commodity were not as environmentally friendly as initially believed."
    • "Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency put out a notice that palm oil-derived biofuels such as biodiesel and renewable diesel fell short of its threshold for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings of 20 percent compared to regular diesel...."
    • "[The notice indicated that] 'palm oil production produces wastewater effluent that eventually decomposes, creating methane, a GHG with a high global warming potential'...and that 'expected expansion of palm plantations onto land with carbon-rich peat soils which would lead to significant releases of GHGs to the atmosphere.'"[24]
  • EU biofuel targets will cost €126 billion without reducing emissions, 2 February 2012 by Friends of the Earth Europe: "Motorists across Europe are set to pay an additional €18 billion a year for petrol and diesel as a result of EU biofuel targets that have been shown not to reduce emissions, says new research published today."
    • "New figures, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe and ActionAid, show that the planned increase in biofuels use could cost European consumers an extra €94 to €126 billion between now and 2020. This despite evidence that biofuels will actually make climate change worse and increase global hunger...."
    • "Biofuels have been promoted as a ‘green’ alternative to climate-damaging fossil fuels, but studies for the European Commission confirm that that the EU’s projected use of biofuels could actually increase emissions – particularly where countries rely on biodiesel from palm oil, soy and rapeseed...."
    • "In its 2012 reporting, the EU will be under pressure to acknowledge the damaging impacts of its biofuels policies on land rights and food prices globally – with cases already recorded, in countries from Guatemala to Kenya."[25]
    • Download the report, EU wide extrapolation of UK cost of biofuels calculations (PDF file).
  • EPA Rejects Palm-Oil Based Biodiesel for Renewable Fuels Program, 27 January 2012 by Business Week: "The Environmental Protection Agency said that biodiesel made from palm oil doesn’t meet the requirements to be added to its renewable fuels program because its greenhouse-gas emissions are too high."
    • "In a regulatory filing today, the EPA said that palm-oil biodiesel, which is primarily produced in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, provides reductions of as much as 17 percent in greenhouse-gas emissions compared to traditional diesel fuel, falling short of a 20 percent reduction necessary to qualify under the law."
    • "By failing to meet that threshold, oil companies can’t use palm fuels to meet national renewable fuel standards. Other fuels they can use are made from soy beans, animal fat, recycled cooking grease or similar materials...."
    • "Environmental groups, which are locked in a fight with the EPA over its approval of corn-based ethanol under the same program, praised the decision as an important marker by the agency. Palm-oil production has led to the deforestation of 6.5 million hectares (16.1 million acres) in Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Friends of the Earth."[26]
  • Biofuel Research Suffers From Gaps, 20 January 2012 by Chemical & Engineering News: "After a review of a decade’s worth of biofuels research, scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that significant knowledge gaps will likely prevent experts from adequately assessing biofuels’ full environmental impacts....While researchers have paid substantial attention to greenhouse gas emissions, the new study says, they have focused little on how the production and use of biofuels affects biodiversity and human health."
    • "'The last 10 years or so of research may have left us short of understanding what biofuels really may do to global economies, the environment, and society,' says Caroline Ridley, an ecologist with the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, in Arlington, Va., who led the study."
    • "The team found that the most common topics, with a few hundred papers each, were fuel production, feedstock production, and greenhouse gas emissions. Near the bottom of the list, 80 studies examined how biofuel production affects biodiversity, for example how local species fare after farmers clear large stretches of land to grow corn, switchgrass, palm oil, or other biofuel feedstocks. And only 15 studied the human health impacts of increasing levels of air pollutants produced by burning biofuel ethanol."
    • "The team also found that researchers have focused largely on the environmental consequences in the Northern Hemisphere even though regions in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Indonesia, will probably grow most of the feedstock crops...."
    • "Ridley and her team warn that these holes in biofuels research mean that expanded biofuels use could lead to unanticipated problems. As a result, she suggests her team’s results could offer a useful guide to decision makers in allotting research funds...."[27]
    • Access the study, Biofuels: Network Analysis of the Literature Reveals Key Environmental and Economic Unknowns

2011

  • Sugarcane ethanol in Brazil a substantial pollution source, 27 December 2011 by Western Farm Press: "University of Iowa researchers and their colleagues have shown that ethanol fuel producers in Brazil — the world's top producer of ethanol from sugarcane as an alternative to petroleum-based fuel — generate up to seven times more air pollutants than previously thought."
    • "The study, titled 'Increased estimates of air-pollution emissions from Brazilian sugarcane ethanol,' is featured in the Nature Highlights section and published in the Dec. 11 advance online publication of the journal Nature Climate Change."
    • "The research team used agricultural survey data from Brazil to calculate emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from the entire production, distribution, and lifecycle of sugarcane ethanol from 2000 to 2008."
    • "The estimated pollutants were 1.5 to 7.3 times higher than those from satellite-based methods, according to lead author Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced."[28]
  • CARB releases 2011 LCFS review report, 22 December 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "The California Air Resources Board has completed the first required formal review of the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a regulatory program that requires stakeholders to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of fuels sold within its borders each year until reaching a 10 percent reduction by 2020."
    • "The reduction was modest—just .25 percent—and CARB concluded that there has been no change in the state’s air quality since the program was implemented."
    • "At issue for Midwest ethanol producers in particular is the inclusion of indirect land use change (ILUC) in the methodology used by CARB to calculate a fuel’s CI."
    • "In the report, CARB said that while the inclusion of ILUC in its model could make it more difficult to harmonize the LCFS with other regional emissions programs that do not require ILUC calculations, it does not plan to alter its program at this time."
    • "It will also not consider any changes to the CI values on a set schedule, but rather will evaluate new information as it becomes available."[29]
  • Are Biofuels the Best Use of Our Limited Land Resources?, 21 December 2011 by OilPrice.com: "About seven million tonnes of grain corn was grown in Ontario in 2011, and by year’s end roughly 30 per cent of that is expected to go toward ethanol fuel production."
    • "Let’s focus instead on the use of corn as part of a greenhouse-gas reduction strategy that returns more economic value per harvested bushel. Through this lens, is biofuel production the best use of a renewable but also land-limited resource?"
    • "Corn, after all, doesn’t have to be made into ethanol and burned in the gas tanks of our cars to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It can also be used to make a variety of 'green' chemicals that form the basis of a wide variety of products currently made from petroleum-based chemicals."
    • "This isn’t just about corn; it’s also about how we choose to use agricultural residues, municipal organic waste, wood waste, algae biomass, and non-food crops."
    • "Does it make sense to just burn this material for energy, or convert it into fuel so it can be burned? Or, should we be doing a better job of targeting niche markets with high-value 'green' products that are just as effective at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels?"[30]
  • Congress ‘lost faith’ in advanced bioenergy, key lawmaker says, 6 December 2011 by Des Moines Register: "Programs the Obama administration has been pushing to promote next-generation biofuels are likely to have little funding in the next farm bill, according to the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson."
    • "He said that the failure of Congress to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions killed off support for agricultural energy programs."
    • "The failure of projects like the Range Fuels biofuels project in Georgia didn’t help either."
    • "Peterson also faulted environmentalists for opposing corn ethanol while promoting advanced biofuels made from non-food feedstocks such as cornfield residue, perennial grasses, or the wood chips from which Range Fuels was going to make fuel."
    • "A farm bill that the congressional agriculture committees drafted this fall would bar the Agriculture Department from providing subsidies for ethanol industry infrastructure. The bill would allow continued subsidies for farmers who provide corn cobs and other feedstocks to biofuel plants but there is no funding earmarked for the payments."[31]
  • ‘Carbon debt’ created by some biofuels must be considered in sustainability debate, new study shows, 30 November 2011 by CIFOR: "Despite being heralded as a green alternative to fossil fuels, a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that carbon emissions generated from land conversion for biodiesel production may take decades to hundreds of years to reverse in some cases, raising serious questions about biodiesel sustainability."
    • "'It really matters how you produce biofuels and what land you grow it on as to whether you are going to get climate change benefits,' said Louis Verchot, CIFOR scientist and co-author of Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia published in a special feature of Ecology and Society."
    • "Fluctuating oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have led to a renewed commitment to renewable energy, with demand for biofuels such as those produced from palm oil, jatropha and soy increasing in recent years."
    • "The strength of this work is in the comparisons between different feed stocks and different settings. 'The take-home message,' says Verchot, 'is not that biofuels are bad for the atmosphere. Rather, the results point to important considerations that must be taken into account to make biofuels sustainable.'"[32]
  • Carbon debt for some biofuels lasts centuries, 30 November 2011 by Mongabay.com: "An innovative new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published in Ecology and Society has computed how long it would take popular biofuel crops to payoff the "carbon debt" of land conversion."
    • "While there is no easy answer—it depends on the type of land converted and the productivity of the crop—the study did find that in general soy had the shortest carbon debt, though still decades-long, while palm oil grown on peatland had the longest on average."
    • "Looking at three different types of biofuels in six countries, the study found that soy grown in parts of Brazil would require 30 years to make-up its carbon debt, which is as good as it gets. Palm oil would require 59-220 years, while jatropha would require 76-310 years, depending on the type of land that was converted."
    • "The study found that these three biofuel crops could only be deemed sustainable if grown on permanent crop or pastureland that was not already in use for growing foods, i.e. was degraded or abandoned, in order to prevent leakage."[33]
    • Download the report, Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
  • OSU study questions cost-effectiveness of biofuels and their ability to cut fossil fuel use, 29 November 2011 press release by OSU: "A new study by economists at Oregon State University questions the cost-effectiveness of biofuels and says they would barely reduce fossil fuel use and would likely increase greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "Biofuels were initially seen as a solution to energy and environmental problems, [the lead author of the study, Bill Jaeger said], because the carbon dioxide that's emitted when they're burned is equivalent to what they had absorbed from the atmosphere when the crops were growing. Thus, biofuels were assumed to add little or no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere."
    • "But the bigger picture is more complex, Jaeger said, in part because biofuels are produced and transported using fossil fuels. For example, nitrogen fertilizer, which is made using natural gas, is used to grow corn for ethanol. Additionally, growing biofuel feedstocks can push food production onto previously unfarmed land, according to well-documented research, Jaeger said. When this new acreage is cleared and tilled, it can release carbon that accumulated over long periods in soil and vegetation, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions, he said."
    • "'Each dollar spent on energy improvement programs would be 20 times more effective in reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions than a similar cost for the corn ethanol program,' Jaeger said. 'Likewise, a gas tax increase would be 21 times more effective than promoting cellulosic ethanol.'"[34]
    • Download the study, Biofuel Economics in a Setting of Multiple Objectives and Unintended Consequences.
  • EU biofuel target seen driving species loss: study, 16 November 2011 by Reuters: "A European Union target to promote the use of biofuels will accelerate global species loss because it encourages the conversion of pasture, savanna and forests into new cropland, EU scientists have warned."
    • "The finding raises fresh doubts over the benefits of biofuels, which were once seen as the most effective way of cutting road transport emissions, but whose environmental credentials have increasingly been called into question."
    • "The scale of species loss in areas converted into new cropland could be more than 80 percent, the scientists from the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) said in a newly published report."
    • "One of the report's authors stressed that the finding was based on a preliminary analysis of the issue and that more research was needed to accurately quantify the likely impact on biodiversity caused by the EU's biofuel mandate."
    • "Modeling exercises carried out by IFPRI and others have also suggested that the land use impacts of the EU target -- both direct and indirect -- could wipe out most of the predicted emissions saving from biofuels."[35]
  • Indirect land use change in Europe: Considering the policy options, 16 November 2011 by the International Council on Clean Transportation: "The European Commission recently released updated results of modelling by the International Food Policy Research Institute of the likely indirect effects of the EU’s biofuels mandate."
    • "We critically assess this work, concluding that while there are inevitably areas that could be improved with further development it is a robust study and representative of best practice in the field of CGE modelling of iLUC."
    • "Based on a simple spreadsheet model of available biofuel feedstocks and pathways under various policy alternatives, and treating the IFPRI MIRAGE modelling results as the best available evidence, we show that without action on iLUC there are unlikely to be significant (if any) net emissions reductions from European biofuel support policies."
    • "We find that the introduction of iLUC factors, or of policies that otherwise prevented the use of the highest iLUC fuels (biodiesel from unused vegetable oil), would increase the expected carbon savings of the policy by a factor of ten, but note that it might be challenging to meet the current level of aspiration for total energy use with such strong policies."[36]
  • EU biofuels industry in denial over CO2 error, 15 November 2011 by Commodities Now: "The European Union wants bio-energy use to rise by more than half by 2020 arguing that the energy source is carbon neutral: the trouble is it isn't, and the target should in fact be scrapped."
    • "Yet carbon emissions from burning bio-energy are actually often higher than for fossil fuels, while being deemed zero carbon under emissions trading rules and low-carbon in renewable energy targets."
    • "A European Environment Agency (EEA) panel of scientists two months ago in a note said: 'The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense'."
    • "The error originally arose in the 1992 U.N. Climate Convention where bio-energy emissions were categorised under land use instead of energy, says Princeton University's Timothy Searchinger."
    • "But under Kyoto, countries didn't have to account for land-use emissions in their emission targets, and so CO2 from bio-energy disappeared from such accounting altogether."
    • "So while bio-energy from plants still has a role as an alternative energy source, it should not be supported in renewable or low-carbon targets any more than fossil fuels. It does makes sense to continue to support making energy from waste products including food, animal and sawmill waste."[37]
  • Large differences in the climate impact of biofuels, 15 November 2011 by EurekAlert: "The use of bioenergy may affect ecosystem carbon stocks, and it can take anything from 2 to 100 years for different biofuels to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality."
    • "The use of bioenergy affects ecosystem carbon stocks over time in either a positive or negative way. Biofuels where the combustion related emissions are compensated rapidly have a lower climate impact than fuels for which it takes a long time for the emissions to be compensated."
    • "Despite this, the difference in climate impacts between slow and rapid biofuels is rarely highlighted in political contexts. Emissions from bioenergy are, for example, not included in countries' commitments under the Kyoto Protocol."
    • "If environmental legislation, for instance the EU renewables directive, requires that climate benefits of biofuels are calculated over a 20 year period, biofuels that need longer time to reach carbon neutrality may be regarded as not renewable."[38]
  • Doubts cast on biofuels' air quality claims, 15 November 2011 by EurActiv: "When the European Commission began pressing for a dramatic expansion in the use of biofuels in transport and energy several years ago, it was seen as a win-win situation: a way to help farmers, create energy security, cut greenhouse emissions and improve air quality. But even that last claim is no longer taken for granted."
    • "A report prepared earlier this year for Britain’s Environment Department showed mixed benefits on air quality of biodiesel and bioethanol."
    • "Separate research shows that biofuel production – such as land clearing, cultivation, fertiliser use and shipping – may negate any advantages that biofuels for transport use have in cutting smog and greenhouse gases."
    • "Their findings show that palm oil – a leading source for biodiesel – is as carbon intensive as petrol, with a 60% increase in land use emissions resulting from cultivation of tropical forest."
    • "Palm oil cultivation also has other consequences in countries like Indonesia, which ranks 20th in forest loss and 21st in urban pollution levels in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index of 187 nations."
    • "Health experts are raising alarms about the impact that bio-energy has on air quality, particularly in Northern and Central Europe where the popularity of wood and timber products for home heating is soaring."[39]
  • Biofuel Expansion Picks Up Pace, 8 November 2011 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com: "The first transatlantic flight powered by biofuel, a Gulfstream G450 corporate jet that travelled from New Jersey to Paris in June of this year, used a 50-50 blend of biofuel and petroleum-based jet fuel."
    • "The flight was estimated to have saved approximately 5.5 tons of net carbon dioxide emissions compared to the same flight powered by fossil fuel, and was hailed as a promising step toward helping the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint."
    • "Global biofuel production is also taking flight, climbing by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program."
    • "Breaking down Worldwatch Institute figures reveals that the world produced some 86 billion litres of ethanol in 2010, 18 percent more than in 2009 while global biodiesel production rose to 19 billion litres in 2010, a 12 percent increase from 2009."
    • "Sugarcane-derived ethanol supplies 41.5 percent of the energy (48 percent of the volume) for light-duty transportation fuels in Brazil."
    • "The report further stated that the EU remained the centre of biodiesel production, accounting for 53% of global output in 2010. Growth slowed there dramatically, however, falling from 19 percent in 2009 to just two percent in 2010."[40]
  • Brazil Lacks Cane to Boost Fuel Exports, Senator Says, 7 November 2011 by BusinessWeek: "Brazilian sugar cane companies, which are preparing to boost ethanol exports to the U.S., don’t produce enough of the renewable fuel to do so, a lawmaker said."
    • "U.S. oil companies, which must comply with government mandates to blend environmentally friendly biofuels, are expected to expand their use of sugar-cane ethanol next year, and more than 100 Brazilian mills are preparing to deliver it."
    • "Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, U.S. oil companies must blend into standard fuel 2 billion gallons (7.58 billion liters) of 'advanced biofuels' next year, Alejandro Zamorano Cadavid, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York, said in a telephone interview."
    • "Advanced biofuels must emit at least 50 percent less carbon dioxide than the petroleum-based products they replace, through their entire life cycle, including growing the crops, processing it into fuel and transporting it to the gas pump. Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol meets that standard, while U.S. corn-based ethanol does not, he said."
    • "About 107 Brazilian ethanol mills had registered with the EPA at the beginning of October to export fuel to the U.S., up from 55 in February, the Sao Paulo-based cane industry association Uniao da Industria de Cana-de-Acucar said Oct. 19."[41]
  • Study Suggests EU Biofuels Are As Carbon Intensive As Petrol, 5 November 2011 by NewsRoomAmerica.com: "A new study on greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm plantations has calculated a more than 50% increase in levels of CO2 emissions than previously thought – and warned that the demand for 'green' biofuels could be costing the earth."
    • "Biodiesel mandates can increase palm oil demand directly (the European Biodiesel Board recently reported big increases in biodiesel imported from Indonesia) and also indirectly, because palm oil is the world's most important source of vegetable oil and will replace oil from rapeseed or soy in food if they are instead used to make biodiesel."
    • "They concluded that a value of 86 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year (annualised over 50 years) is the most robust currently available estimate; this compares with previous estimates of around 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year."
    • "CO2 emissions increase further if you are interested specifically in the short term greenhouse gas implications of palm oil production – for instance under the EU Renewable Energy Directive which assesses emissions over 20 years, the corresponding emissions rate would be 106 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year."[42]
  • Biofuel from West Coat forests would increase carbon emissions, 26 October 2011 by Western Farm Press: "The largest and most comprehensive study yet done on the effect of biofuel production from West Coast forests has concluded that an emphasis on bioenergy would increase carbon dioxide emissions from these forests at least 14 percent, if the efficiency of such operations is optimal."
    • "The study was published in Nature Climate Change, by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and other institutions in Germany and France. It was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy."
    • "During the past four years, the study examined 80 forest types in 19 eco-regions in Oregon, Washington and California, ranging from temperate rainforests to semi-arid woodlands."
    • "The study examined thousands of forest plots with detailed data and observations, considering 27 parameters, including the role of forest fire, emissions savings from bioenergy use, wood product substitution, insect infestations, forest thinning, energy and processes needed to produce biofuels, and many others."
    • "Plans for greenhouse gas reduction call for up to 10 percent lower emissions by 2020, and forest-derived fuels are now seen as a carbon-neutral solution to reducing energy emissions, the researchers note. However, this study suggests that increases in harvest volume on the West Coast, for any reason, will instead result in average increases in emissions above current levels."[43]
  • Biofuels growth stifled by EU policy delays: BP, 18 October 2011 by Reuters: "Biofuels for use in transport are becoming more competitive compared with oil but the pace of growth has slowed due to a lack of regulation and sustainability standards in Europe, the chief executive of BP's biofuels division said."
    • "'In the UK, biofuels get no tax breaks whatsoever. The biggest obstacle (to biofuel growth) is uncertainty around the future of mandates and clear (European Union) sustainability standards,' Philip New of BP Biofuels told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday."
    • "EU policymakers are currently debating the green credentials of some biofuels and should present proposals for approval by EU governments and lawmakers before the end of the year. However, legislation might not emerge for several years."
    • "Critics say some biofuels production can occupy land that would otherwise be used for agricultural purposes, thus limiting food and water resources for a rapidly rising world population."
    • "Some biofuel production could also increase carbon emissions, especially if rainforests are cut down to facilitate production."[44]
  • EU to establish full carbon emissions, 13 October 2011 by IOL Scitech: "The European Union's efforts to establish the full carbon emissions from burning bio-energy is an all but impossible task which illustrates the difficulty of trying to cut humankind's environmental impact, which first has to be measured."
    • "But a fuller measure of carbon emissions is important, even an inaccurate number beats ignoring the issue, especially given the lessons from a related food versus fuel battle which sparked a global backlash against liquid biofuels three years ago"
    • "In a world of limited land and a growing population decisions taken in Europe can cause farmers to wield chainsaws in a tropical rainforest."
    • "Qualification for support payments and numerical targets is conditional on liquid biofuels cutting carbon emissions by at least 35 percent compared with gasoline and diesel under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive, rising to 60 percent from 2018."
    • "But the rule only applies to direct emissions, not so-called indirect land use change (ILUC), where some bio-energy displaces grazing and food crops, driving carbon emissions from causing land to be ploughed up elsewhere."[45]
  • Indirect land use change (ILUC) risks can be mitigated, says E&Y report, 10 October 2011 by Biofuels Digest: "In Belgium, a new report by Ernst & Young indicates that indirect land use change (ILUC) risks can be mitigated by incentives that encourage existing and additional sustainable practices in biofuels production, as well as other sectors that use agricultural commodities."
    • "The report, commissioned by a diverse consortium of industry and NGOs, supports a new policy option that incentivizes land use change mitigation practices and supports best practice and behavioral change in the production of biofuels."
    • "This proposal could be implemented by extending the application of carbon incentives, already established by the Directive for degraded land, to qualifying mitigation measures identified in the report."
    • "ILUC mitigation practices identified by Ernst & Young include the development of advanced generation biofuels, improvements to crop yields on existing agricultural land, the use of co-products for animal feed purposes, and crop production on abandoned lands."[46]
  • European biofuels target condemned by leading US scientists, 7 October 2011 by The Guardian: "Over 100 top scientists and economists have written to the European commission calling for indirect land use change (ILUC) to be accounted for in EU biofuels policy making."
    • "The letter, seen by EurActiv, argues that assigning biofuels a zero or 'carbon neutral' emissions value – as the EU has done – 'is clearly not supported by the [best available] science'."
    • "Because of 'flawed' accounting conventions, 'the European Union's target for renewable energy in transport may fail to deliver genuine carbon savings in the real world,' the scientists argue."
    • "Since 2008, EU member states have been obliged to raise the share of biofuels in the energy mix to 10% by 2020."
    • "But recent reports by the European Environment Agency and four other EU agencies have questioned whether meeting the EU's target would cut any CO2 emissions at all."
    • "But because of 'scientific uncertainties,' the Commissioners decided to introduce a contested 'threshold' measurement of CO2 savings until 2018 that would not penalise individual biofuels emissions."[47]
  • Ethanol fuel use goal likely a bust, science panel says, 4 October 2011 by USA Today: "The federal requirement for consuming 36 billion gallons of ethanol and other so-called biofuels annually by 2022 probably won't be met, and it might not reach its goal of cutting greenhouse gases even it were met, according to a report requested by Congress and published Tuesday by the National Academy of Sciences."
    • "Meeting the standard 'would likely increase federal budget outlays as well as have mixed economic and environmental effects,' according to a summary."
    • "The report notes that the way biofuels (mainly ethanol) are produced, and changes in how land is used to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard, will determine whether greenhouse gases (GHG) increase or decrease."
    • "The portion of the requirements dictating the use of 15 billion gallons of fuel mainly from corn ethanol certainly will be met, he says: 'We're at 14 billion today,' and plenty of ethanol plants are in operation. But meeting the requirements for cellulosic biofuels is uncertain, the report says."[49]
  • Certain biofuel mandates unlikely to be met by 2022; unless new technologies, policies developed, 4 October 2011 by EurekAlert: "It is unlikely the United States will meet some specific biofuel mandates under the current Renewable Fuel Standard by 2022 unless innovative technologies are developed or policies change, says a new congressionally requested report from the National Research Council, which adds that the standard may be an ineffective policy for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "The committee that wrote the report said that production of adequate volumes of biofuels are expected to meet consumption mandates for conventional biofuels and biomass-based diesel fuel. However, whether and how the mandate for cellulosic biofuels will be met is uncertain."
    • "Currently, no commercially viable biorefineries exist for converting cellulosic biomass to fuel. The capacity to meet the renewable fuel mandate for cellulosic biofuels will not be available unless the production process is unexpectedly improved and technologies are scaled up and undergo several commercial-scale demonstrations in the next few years."
    • "Only in an economic environment characterized by high oil prices, technological breakthroughs, and a high implicit or actual carbon price would biofuels be cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels, the committee concluded."[50]
  • Our sugarcane is greener than your corn: Brazil takes on US biofuel industry, 4 October 2011 by Ecologist: "Despite a poor harvest last year, Brazil’s ethanol industry is gearing up for expansion with a series of consolidations involving big companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Petrobras showing it means business."
    • "An Institute for European Enviroment Policy study last year claimed that biofuels could create an extra 56 million tonnes of CO2 per year due mostly to deforestation worldwide."
    • "Now the industry is keen to show the rest of the world it is cleaning up its act. Producers and the Brazilian government point to more stringent regulation and claim greater mechanisation will in fact eradicate the need for harmful burning."
    • "They are also keen to emphasise that the sugarcane ethanol produced in Brazil is a much greener alternative to corn-derived ethanol from the United States or further deforestation of Europe where land is relatively scarce."
    • "A sustainability certification, Bon Sucro Standard, has been set up, with a Raizen mill in Maracai the first to be granted sustainability."
    • "The problem is chiefly one of regulating Brazil’s vast terrain, especially when it comes to the complex issue of deforestation caused by sugarcane planting."[51]
  • 'World's first' biomass exchange to open in Rotterdam, 3 October 2011 by Business Green: "What has been hailed as the world's first biomass exchange looks set to be launched in Rotterdam from next month, in response to soaring demand for wood chips from the biomass energy industry."
    • "Online systems in North America already serve a global market for wood pellets estimated to stand at around 10 million tonnes a year."
    • "Countries are increasingly turning to biomass to decarbonise their energy sectors, and experts predict that demand could grow sixfold by 2020."
    • "Trading will commence on 3 November with non-cleared products, before a second phase scheduled for 2012 will see the development of clearing services for wood pellets contracts."
    • "The new exchange is likely to further fuel the debate over the sustainability of biomass imports."
    • "European countries are likely to look abroad to meet future biomass needs, potentially pushing up the price of wood and encouraging deforestation in poorer countries, critics say."
    • "However, supporters of biomass power, including the UK Forestry Commission, have repeatedly argued that wood from sustainable forests, where new trees are planted when others are cut down, releases far less carbon than traditional fossil fuels."[52]
  • Carbon credits tarnished by human rights 'disgrace', 3 October 2011 by EurActiv: "The reported killing of 23 Honduran farmers in a dispute with the owners of UN-accredited palm oil plantations in Honduras is forcing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) executive board to reconsider its stakeholder consultation processes."
    • "In Brussels, the Green MEP Bas Eickhout called the alleged human rights abuses 'a disgrace', and told EurActiv he would be pushing the European Commission to bar carbon credits from the plantations from being traded under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)."
    • "But because they took place after the CDM's stakeholder consultations had been held, and fell outside the board's primary remit to investigate emissions reductions and environmental impacts, it had been powerless to block project registrations."
    • "Last week, proposals were submitted to a CDM board meeting in Quito, Ecuador, addressing the time-lag between project consultations and registrations. But carbon credits from the plantations can still be freely traded on the EU ETS, which allows polluters to offset their carbon emissions by nominally clean energy investments."[53]
  • Questioning Europe's Math on Biofuels, 25 September 2011 by The New York Times: "Much of the appeal of generating energy from plants was that they emit only as much carbon when burned in cars and power plants as they absorb while growing."
    • "It turns out that the emissions from growing and processing some biofuels significantly diminish their benefits, when taking into account factors like the use of fertilizers manufactured with fossil fuels."
    • "Concerns have also grown that large swaths of forest and grassland will be chopped down or burned to grow fuel crops — and to grow food that has been displaced by growing fuel crops elsewhere — thereby releasing additional stocks of carbon into the atmosphere."
    • "The Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency said the European Union had committed a 'serious accounting error' by failing to measure how much additional carbon dioxide was absorbed by existing fields, forests and grasslands, compared with that absorbed by energy crops."
    • "Bioenergy, including the burning of wood to produce electricity, would meet about half of the overall renewable energy target under national plans, while biofuels would provide the majority of renewable transport fuels."[54]
  • Commission to fudge CO2 effects of biofuel, 22 September 2011 by EuropeanVoice.com: "The European Commission has rejected the advice of its scientific experts and backed away from imposing tough carbon-dioxide emissions standards on specific types of biofuel."
    • "Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, and Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, are poised to propose instead a cruder environmental standard, that all biofuel sold in the European Union will have to produce carbon-dioxide savings of 50% compared with fossil fuel."
    • "Different types of biofuel have different ILUC effects, which means that their environmental performance varies, sometimes widely."
    • "Only this week, a scientific committee of the European Environment Agency, an EU body charged with providing advice to the EU institutions, warned that to assume that using biomass as an energy source was carbon neutral was 'a serious accounting error'."
    • "But the commissioners have now agreed to postpone action until 2014, the last year of the mandate of the current Commission. Only then will they make their proposals to attach specific CO2 values to each type of biofuel – deferring any impact from new measures until 2016 at the earliest."[55]
  • ‘Serious’ Error Found in Carbon Savings for Biofuels, 14 September 2011 by the New York Times Green Blog: "The European Union is overestimating the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions achieved through reliance on biofuels as a result of a 'serious accounting error,' according to a draft opinion by an influential committee of 19 scientists and academics."
    • "The European Environment Agency Scientific Committee writes that the role of energy from crops like biofuels in curbing warming gases should be measured by how much additional carbon dioxide such crops absorb beyond what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands."
    • "Instead, the European Union has been 'double counting' some of the savings, according to the draft opinion, which was prepared by the committee in May and viewed this week by The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times."
    • "The committee said that the error had crept into European Union regulations because of a 'misapplication of the original guidance' under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."
    • "'The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense since it assumes that all burning of biomass does not add carbon to the air,' the committee wrote."
    • "The commission already is agonizing over how much to tighten the rules on biofuels to curb a phenomenon called indirect land use change, in which areas containing high stores of carbon dioxide, like grasslands, peat lands or forests, are stripped to produce food crops."[56]
  • Rethinking Life-Cycle Fuel Regulations, 20 August 2011 by Forbes: "In the most recent issue of Climatic Change, one of the resident geniuses that populate the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Dr. John DeCicco, argues that attempting to regulate fuels using a lifecycle analysis (LCA)-based approach—as is currently done by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard—is an exercise in futility for purposes of gaging environmental effectiveness."
    • "Instead, in 'Biofuels and carbon management,' DeCicco proposes a method using annual basis carbon (ABC) accounting to track the stocks and flows of carbon and other relevant greenhouse gases (GHGs) throughout fuel supply chains."
    • "ABC accounting would avoid an automatic credit of biogenic carbon in biofuels, and minimize and accumulation of carbon debt due to indirect land-use change, he says."
    • "Upon reflection, policy is best defined using current-period accounting of carbon stocks and flows, ideally with direct, measurement-based, verifiable tallies of GHG emissions from the production and use of all fuels and feedstocks."[57]
  • ILUC and the Food Versus Fuel Paradox, 11 August 2011 by Biomass Hub: "Indirect land use change (ILUC) is based on the premise that there may be unintended consequence associated with the expansion of croplands for ethanol or biodiesel production in response to increased global demand for biofuels, including the destruction of “virgin” lands and a corresponding release of carbon emissions."
    • "The ILUC backlash is inimical to the global expansion of biofuels as a traded commodity, as was seen in the EU’s most recent debate during a rework of its Renewable Energy Directive."
    • "Managing public perception, and more importantly, expectations, is key to expanding biofuels production worldwide to offset a much more worrisome public policy issue, petroleum dependence."
    • "Like ILUC, the food versus fuel debate exploded on the scene in 2008 as food prices around the world skyrocketed. In truth, the causes are complex and attributed to a web of factors. To attribute increases in food prices to the use of biofuels alone is both misleading and irresponsible."
    • "As we transition into the “Post Oil Age,” the ILUC and food versus fuel debates continue to constrain progress towards more sustainable fuels made from biomass. Although not necessarily a bad thing in all cases, the debate obscures the reality that all biofuels are not created equal."[58]
  • Not everyone cheering Lufthansa biofuel test, 15 July 2011 by The Local: "Lufthansa is testing biosynthetic fuels on Airbus A321 flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt and, if the trial is successful, hopes to expand use of the fuel across its fleet."
    • "The airline aims to reduce carbon dioxide (C02) emissions fleet-wide, although some environmentalists are skeptical."
    • "'The use of biofuel in the aviation sector to reduce CO2 emissions is an ecological sham,' said Werner Reh, of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND)."
    • "In a statement, Reh complained that plans such as Lufthansa’s will just result in the mass expansion of crop cultivation necessary to create the biofuel mixture, leading to 'worldwide destruction of forests, loss of biodiversity and competition for food.'"
    • "The airline estimates it will save 1,500 tons of C02 during its tests which will cost €6.5 million ($9.1 million), about a third of which is being funded by the German government."[59]
  • Commercial airlines get OK to use biofuels, 11 July 2011 by SFGate: "After decades of waiting, commercial airlines have been given the go-ahead to use fuel made from algae, wood chips and other plants with obscure names."
    • "On July 1, ASTM International, an American organization that sets worldwide technical standards for airlines and other industries, gave approval for carriers to mix fuel made from organic waste and nonfood plants with kerosene, which is conventionally used to power planes."
    • "Aviation accounts for about 2 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, according to the International Air Transport Association. In 2012, carriers with European routes will have to participate in the European Union's cap-and-trade system for CO{-2} and will have to buy additional permits if they exceed limits set by the European Commission."
    • "The trick for airlines, plane makers and fuel suppliers will be figuring out which brew works best and producing it in large enough quantities so that costs begin to fall."[60]
  • Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU, 8 July 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry, which has boomed in the wake of a decision by Brussels policymakers in 2003 to promote it, is now on the verge of being legislated out of existence after the studies revealed biodiesel's indirect impact cancels out most of its benefits."
    • "The EU has been arguing for two years over the extent of indirect damage to the environment caused by it setting a target of increasing biofuel use to 10 percent of all road fuels by 2020, from less than three percent today."
    • "Its own analysis shows the target may lead to an indirect one-off release of around 1,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide -- more than twice the annual emissions of Germany."
    • "Biofuels were once seen as a silver bullet for curbing transport emissions, based on a theory that they only emit as much carbon as they absorbed during growth."
    • "But that has been undermined by a new concept known as 'indirect land-use change' (ILUC), which scientists are still struggling to accurately quantify."
    • "The Commission's impact analysis predicts EU demand for biodiesel will collapse if their indirect impacts are taken into account in EU legislation. But at the same time it sees a sharp rise in demand for bioethanol from cereal crops and sugarcane, as well as advanced biodiesel produced from algae."[61]
  • Lufthansa to become first airline to run regular biofuel flights, 8 July 2011 by The Guardian: "Lufthansa will next Friday become the first airline to run regular commercial flights powered partially with biofuel."
    • "Airlines have flown many demonstration biofuel flights, but Lufthansa's LH013 11:15am Hamburg to Frankfurt flight will start the first passenger service to run on a blend of biofuel and conventional fuel."
    • "The company will use the novel fuel mix for six months on eight of its 28 daily 50-minute flights between the two German cities – a distance of 244 miles each way. The German airline says the 1,200 flights will save 1,500 tonnes of CO2."
    • "Biofuels could help airlines reduce carbon emissions. However critics say that biofuels take up land for growing food and raise prices. Worse, if they promote deforestation, they can actually raise emissions."
    • "One engine of the 200-seater Airbus A321 will be fed with a 50-50 mix of biofuel and conventional kerosene-based fuel, the other engine will run on kerosene alone. That will allow Lufthansa to compare the engines' performances under exactly the same conditions. It was not necessary to modify either engine."[62]
  • Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talk of war, 2 July 2011 by The Guardian: "[E]viction of the [Gamba Manyatta] villagers to make way for a sugar cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya's Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds."
    • "The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane and jatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the west, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel."
    • "The delta's people are trying to fight their own government over the huge blocks of land being turned over to companies including the Canadian company, Bedford Biofuels, which was this year granted a licence by the Kenyan environmental regulator for a 10,000-hectare jatropha 'pilot' project. A UK-based firm, G4 Industries Ltd, has been awarded a licence for 28,000 hectares."[63]
  • Canada mandates 2% biofuel mandate for diesel, heating oil from July 1, 29 June 2011 by Platts: "The Canadian federal government is surging ahead with plans to make 2% biofuel content mandatory in all diesel and heating oil sold in the country from July 1, with some exemptions, Environment Canada announced Wednesday."
    • "With curbing green house gas emissions being the prime driver in issuing the mandate, the announcement said the mandate would bring Canada even closer to its goal of reducing GHG emissions by 17% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels."
    • "The announcement has elicited concerned reactions from the industry, with Stephen Laskowski, senior vice-president for economic and environmental affairs at the Canadian Trucking Alliance, stating that the mandate was issued to 'primarily' help the agricultural industry and would result in a hike diesel fuel cost."
    • "A permanent exemption is being provided for renewable content in diesel fuel and heating distillate oil sold in Newfoundland and Labrador to address the logistical challenges of blending biodiesel, said the Environment Canada announcement, adding that temporary exemptions for renewable content in both diesel fuel and heating distillate oil sold in Quebec and all Atlantic provinces are being provided until December 31, 2012."[64]
  • New biofuel sustainability assessment tool and GHG calculator released, 16 June 2011 by e! Science News: "The new tool allows users to perform a self-assessment against the Principles and Criteria of the RSB and a self-risk assessment. The online tool also calculates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of biofuels for each lifecycle production step, from farming to final fuel distribution; this calculation can be done according to various methodologies."
    • "The development of the new tool, which is directly accessible (free of charge) at http://buiprojekte.f2.htw-berlin.de:1339/, took about two years and was supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)."
    • "Various GHG calculation methods are implemented, including the Swiss standard (for mineral-oil tax-relief), the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED) standard, the Californian standard and the RSB standard."
    • "By allowing a risk assessment of biofuels production and an evaluation based on the RSB sustainability principles, the tool forms the entry point to the RSB sustainability certification."[65]
  • UK scientists launch scathing criticism of EU biofuel targets, 2 June 2011 by The Ecologist: "A global 'land grab' and increased loss of forests and other natural ecosystems is being driven by European targets for more transport fuel to come from biofuels, say a group of prominent UK scientists."
    • "The biofuels target was originally designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but in a letter sent to the transport minister Philip Hammond, and seen by the Ecologist, 19 prominent scientists from across the UK say crop-based biofuels will actually 'substantially increase emissions'."
    • "According to the scientists, in a rush to promote biofues both the UK and EU had failed to take account of two factors - the high-use of nitrogen fertilisers and land-use change brought about by the increasing demand for land to grow biofuel crops instead of food."
    • "'The additional demand for grains, oilseeds and sugars brought about by increased biofuel production will indirectly bring about the conversion of land currently under forest or other natural ecosystem into agricultural land, with the concomitant release into the atmosphere of carbon stored in trees and soil,' says the letter."[66]
  • MA Proposes GHG Restrictions on Biomass Power, 11 May 2011 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com: "The Massachusetts governor's office last week said the biomass electricity industry must meet strict emissions standards if wood-fired power plants expect to earn renewable energy credits (RECs)."
    • "Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray proposed the restrictions before the Legislature this week after the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) revised the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to account for the findings of an independent study."
    • "In June, the DOER-commissioned study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences of Plymouth concluded that large-scale, biomass-fired electricity would create 3% more greenhouse emissions (GHG) than coal-fired plants by 2050."
    • "Massachusetts, officially a commonwealth, is among the first states to regulate biomass emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency tabled the issue for three years when it announced in January a three-year deferral on GHG-permitting requirements."
    • "DOER officials hope the restrictions will encourage the biomass industry to design smaller projects for combined heat and power (CHP) units, which can provide heat and electricity for industrial parks and community districts. The Manomet study found that CHP would reduce GHGs 25% by 2050."[68]
  • Wanted by EPA: Scientists for controversial climate mission, 26 April 2011 by The Hill: "The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking experts to help unwrap a wonky but politically charged question: How to measure the carbon footprint of using biomass for energy."
    • "EPA in January backed off applying greenhouse gas permitting rules to power plants and other facilities that use plant matter to make energy."
    • "EPA said it would use the three-year delay to improve methods for accounting for the carbon footprint of using various types of forest and other plant materials. On Wednesday, the agency is slated to publish a request for nominations to serve on a panel of EPA’s Science Advisory Board that will weigh the matter."
    • "A key question is how to track carbon released from land-use changes related to harvesting plant matter."
    • "EPA has come under heavy pressure from the forest industry and some Capitol Hill lawmakers fearful that applying emissions rules to biomass would stymie the market for the energy source."[69]
  • IEA: Biofuels could supply 27 per cent of transport fuel by 2050, 21 April 2011 by Business Green: "Up to $13tn (£8tr) of investment is required to ensure that sustainable biofuels make up more than a quarter of all transport fuel by 2050, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) which argues that emerging biofuel technologies could deliver deep cuts in carbon emissions and improvements in energy security."
    • "The Biofuels for Transport report says that most biofuel technologies could cost the same, or even less, than fossil fuels."
    • "Around three billion tonnes of biomass, along with a further billion tonnes of biomass residues and wastes, and supplementary production from around 100 million hectares of land, would be needed each year to meet the 2050 targets set out in the report."
    • "The IEA expects the majority of new biofuels to come from second-generation technologies, such as cellulosic ethanol, which is derived from wood, straw and other waste materials, and can be be produced without eating into agricultural land."[70]
    • Read the full IEA Technology Roadmap: Biofuels for Transport Report (PDF).
  • Sugarcane Cools Climate, Study Finds, 17 April 2011 by Science Daily: "Brazilians are world leaders in using biofuels for gasoline. About a quarter of their automobile fuel consumption comes from sugarcane, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would be emitted from using gasoline. Now scientists from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology have found that sugarcane has a double benefit. Expansion of the crop in areas previously occupied by other Brazilian crops cools the local climate. It does so by reflecting sunlight back into space and by lowering the temperature of the surrounding air as the plants 'exhale' cooler water."
    • "The scientists found that converting from natural vegetation to crop/pasture on average warmed the cerrado by 2.79 °F (1.55 °C), but that subsequent conversion to sugarcane, on average, cooled the surrounding air by 1.67 °F (0.93°C)."
    • "The researchers emphasize that the beneficial effects are contingent on the fact sugarcane is grown on areas previously occupied by crops or pastureland, and not in areas converted from natural vegetation. It is also important that other crops and pastureland do not move to natural vegetation areas, which would contribute to deforestation."[71]
    • See the full study in the journal Nature Climate Change, "Direct impacts on local climate of sugar-cane expansion in Brazil"
  • Biofuels targets are 'unethical', says Nuffield report, 13 April 2011 by BBC News (U.K.): "EU biofuels targets are unethical, according to a report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics."
    • "Its authors recommend the targets should be lifted temporarily until new safeguards are put in place for biofuels grown in Europe or imported."
    • "The Council is an independent body that was set up 20 years ago to ponder ethical issues raised by developments in biology and medicine."
    • "It has been studying biofuels for 18 months - specifically relating to the EU Renewable Energy Directive target that biofuels should account for 10% of transport fuel by 2020, a much-criticised mandate originally designed as part of Europe's strategy to combat climate change."
    • "Based on what it says is a set of ethical values which will be widely shared, the report says biofuels should:
      • not be at the expense of human rights;
      • be environmentally sustainable;
      • contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gases (some currently increase greenhouse gases);
      • adhere to fair trade principles;
      • have costs and benefits that can be distributed in an equitable way."
    • "These principles would be backed by a mandatory - and strictly enforced - EU certification scheme, a little like the Fairtrade scheme."[72]
  • Ethanol: How Much Can We Produce?, 5 April 2011 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com: "Innovations in America’s ethanol industry are constantly delivering new ways to reduce water and energy consumption at the plant, coax more energy out of the feedstock and cut greenhouse gas emissions through use of renewable energy."
    • "But researchers from General Motors, Auburn University and Coskata Inc. have also identified ethanol as the most efficient and productive way to create renewable fuels from biomass – such as agricultural waste, trash and other cellulosic materials – that is often otherwise left unused in the United States."
    • "As oil prices spike on unrest and instability in the Middle East, research demonstrates that we have more than enough cellulosic feedstock for conversion into ethanol in this country to cut our foreign oil consumption by as much as 30 percent."
    • "Some of the paper’s findings echo other work – such as the finding that ethanol substantially reduces carbon emissions, compared to other transportation fuels. But other conclusions would surprise critics of ethanol. For example, the paper concludes that using higher blends of ethanol improves the performance of today’s high-compression engines, because of its superior qualities over gasoline as a fuel."[73]
  • Boeing Releases Study On Jatropha Sustainable For Aviation Fuel, 3 April 2011 by AvStop.com: "Boeing released research conducted by Yale University's School of Environmental Studies showing significant potential for sustainable aviation fuel based on jatropha-curcas, an oil-producing, non-edible plant."
    • "The study shows that, if cultivated properly, jatropha can deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits in Latin America and greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60 percent when compared to petroleum-based jet fuel."
    • "A key study finding identifies prior land-use as the most important factor driving greenhouse gas benefits of a jatropha jet fuel. If Jatropha is planted on land previously covered in forest, shrubs or native grasses, benefits may disappear altogether. If the crop is planted on land that was already cleared or degraded, then additional carbon is stored and emissions reductions can exceed the 60 percent baseline."
    • "A second important finding is that early jatropha projects suffered from a lack of developed seed strains, which led to poor crop yields. Advancing jatropha seed technology through private and government research is critical and many Latin American countries are now engaged in supporting such technology development."[74]
  • Boeing study: Biofuel shows ‘significant potential’, 31 March 2011 by Puget Sound Business Journal: "Boeing Co. said a study of using the jatropha-curcas plant as biofuel showed 'significant potential.'"
    • "Researchers studied the environmental and other benefits of the jatropha, an oil-producing and non-edible plant found in Mexico and Central America."
    • "'The study shows that, if cultivated properly, jatropha can deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits in Latin America and greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60 percent when compared to petroleum-based jet fuel,' Boeing said in a statement."[75]
  • Kenya biofuel project opposed, 23 March 2011 by AFP: "The Kenyan franchise of Italy's Nuove Iniziative Industriali is planning to farm 50,000 hectares of jatropha near Malindi, a seaside tourist resort in southern Kenya."
    • "'Taking into account the emissions produced throughout the production and consumption process... jatropha would emit between 2.5 and six times more greenhouse gases,' said ActionAid, Nature Kenya and the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds."
    • "The groups said the project is driven by commercial interests in Europe where the European Union has set a target to produce 10 percent of transport energy from biofuels by 2020."
    • "The United Nations Environment Programme said in 2009 that jatropha can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions if grown on degraded land, but can also be carbon intensive if its farming entails land use changes."[76]
  • Evidence of indirect land-use change is clear, says report, 21 March 2011 by Transport & Environment: "A report by Germany’s Öko Institut says there is sufficient scientific knowledge for the EU to include the effects of indirect land use change (Iluc) in its sustainability criteria to determine which biofuels will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report was commissioned by the European Parliament’s environment committee, and puts further pressure on the Commission to include ILUC in its assessment of policy options on biofuels due to be published in July."
    • "The report was presented to MEPs earlier this month, and criticises December’s decision by the Commission to delay incorporating Iluc until it has more evidence about its effects. Iluc i the syndrome by which growing crops for biofuels triggers displacement of existing food or feed production to nature areas, which in many cases leads to higher emissions from biofuels than from the production of conventional fuels."
    • "The Öko Institut says the only viable option for assessing the environmental performance of biofuels is to have feedstock-specific Iluc factors. This would directly link the production of biofuels to its effect on food production."[77]
  • Midwest senators strike back with pro-biofuels bill, 11 March 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Two Midwest senators proposed legislation March 10 favoring the build-out of biofuels infrastructure and continued federal support of ethanol and biodiesel. The Securing America’s Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies Act, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., would establish incentives for biofuels infrastructure and deployment, develop a 'more cost-effective' tax credit program for ethanol and biodiesel, establish a renewable energy standard and encourage greater production of hybrid, electric and flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs)."
    • "The 117-page SAFEST Act covers a wide spectrum of renewable fuels interests and contains several important provisions related to the ethanol industry....The legislation also includes text that would prevent the U.S. EPA from considering international indirect land use changes when calculating biofuels’ lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and calls for the National Academies of Science to conduct a review of methodologies used to project indirect GHG emissions relating to transportation fuels."[78]
  • Environmental groups object to biomass plant, 9 March 2011 by iStockAnalyst/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Critics of a biomass power plant proposed by We Energies and Domtar Corp. say the project shouldn't qualify for a [Wisconsin] environmental permit because it will lead to higher emissions of greenhouse gases."
    • "The We Energies project is the first biomass plant, and one of the first three projects in the country, to be reviewed under new greenhouse gas rules enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."
    • "It doesn't make sense to issue a permit for the project because it would add emissions of carbon dioxide at a rate much higher than a natural gas-fueled power plant, said Mary Booth, an ecologist who is researching biomass projects for a national coalition called the Partnership for Policy Integrity."
    • "The proposal is being closely watched by the industry because it is one of the first to be issued. It also comes at an unusual time, because the EPA is considering backing off on carbon regulation for biomass power plants."[79]
  • Summit to tackle E10 biofuel debacle held, 8 March 2011 by The Local: "Berlin is working to implement a European Union directive that says biofuels should make up 10 percent of EU vehicle fuel consumption by 2020 to make the continent less dependent on foreign supplies."
    • "The new E10 petrol contains 10 percent biofuel made from crops and has been sold at German filling stations since last month."
    • "But many drivers have spurned E10 because they fear damage to their motors even though the VDA auto federation says it is suitable for 93 percent of petrol-driven vehicles."
    • "'Some drivers buy E10, but 'no more than 10 percent,' Tomas Gloos,a petrol-station manager, told AFP, and 'most of them do so without knowing it.'"
    • "While the oil industry has been accused of providing little information on the new fuel, environmental associations have slammed it for poor results in carbon dioxide emission tests."
    • "They note also that biofuels require farmland that could be used to raise crops for food, putting pressure on prices that are now attracting consumers' attention."[80]
  • BP declares biofuels the only route to cleaner transport, 3 March 2011 by Business Green: "Biofuels is the 'only game in town' when it comes to decarbonising the transport sector, according to Olivier Mace, a senior BP executive, who also downplayed the potential for electric vehicles as a near-term replacement for conventional cars."
    • "Mace said he expected growing demand in India and China would by 2030 push the biofuel share of all road transport fuel well above the 12 per cent mark BP has previously predicted."
    • "But despite the industry's enthusiasm, Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, warned that growing demand for energy crops would contribute to rising emissions."
    • ""Research has shown that the current rush to biofuel will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, rather than a reduction," Richter told BusinessGreen. "This is caused by the need to convert massive amounts of natural habitat into biofuel plantations."[81]
  • EU wants 60 pct transport carbon cut by 2050-draft, 16 February 2011 by Reuters: "The European Union's executive Commission will call for a 60 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050."
    • "The proposed transport targets are based on an existing EU goal to cut the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent by the middle of the century."
    • "In one possible complication for the targets, the EU's "sustainability criteria" are meant to limit the use of biofuels which have unwanted side effects, such as competing with food production, or else leading to the destruction of tropical forests where these are re-planted with energy crops."[82]
  • Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won't Know for 3 Years, 13 January 2011 by Solve Climate News: "The Obama administration put off for another three years a decision on whether to regulate planet-warming gases from biomass power."
    • "The delay leaves wide open a question central to the industry's future: Should turning tree parts into electricity qualify as clean renewable power in the eyes of government regulators, or should biomass emissions be regarded as a source of greenhouse gas pollution?"
    • "Biomass includes plant waste, wood chips, organic debris and whole trees, and industry representatives say burning it is "carbon neutral." They argue that new growth absorbs CO2 and cancels out emissions spewed into the atmosphere from burning the wood."
    • "Conservationists dispute that claim with a very different understanding of what constitutes the natural carbon cycle. Rotting biomass enriches soils, which capture and sequester some of the carbon of the once-living plant tissue. They argue that biomass combustion produces more CO2 than burning fossil fuels — by how much varies depending on the type of materials and how they are transported."
    • "EPA said it would bring the best science to bear on the issues over the next three years. By July 2014, it will decide how to treat biomass under its "tailoring" rule, which determines which polluters are required to account for their emissions under the Clean Air Act."[83]
  • IEA Bioenergy Releases Report on Bioenergy and Land Use Change, January 2011 by International Institute for Sustainable Development: "International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Bioenergy Task has published a report for policy makers titled 'Bioenergy, Land Use Change and Climate Change Mitigation,' which addresses how the climate change mitigation from the use of bioenergy can be influenced by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from land-use change."
    • "It discusses ways to avoid the need to include land use within emissions calculations by using of post-consumer organic residues and by-products from the agricultural and forest industries as bioenergy feedstock."
    • "The report further provides that the use of second generation technologies, as well as marginal or degraded lands, can mitigate climate-related effects of land use change."[84]
    • To read the report, go to Bioenergy, Land Use Change and Climate Change Mitigation

2010

  • The ethics of biofuels: Paper asks hard questions about biofuel production, 14 December 2010 by University of Calgary: "In the world-wide race to develop energy sources that are seen as "green" because they are renewable and less greenhouse gas-intensive, sometimes the most basic questions remain unanswered."
    • "In a paper released today by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, authors Michal Moore, Senior Fellow, and Sarah M. Jordaan at Harvard University in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, look at the basic question of whether these energy sources are ethical."
    • The main questions addressed are: "1. What is the effect of biofuel production on food costs, especially for poor populations? 2. Should more land be used for biofuel when the return of energy per acre is low? Are there better uses for that land? 3. In addition to worrying about the impact of global warming, should we not consider the impact on land of massively expanding biofuel production? 4. What are the other economic impacts of large scale production of biofuel?"[85]
  • A wiki for the biofuels research community, 29 October 2010 by PhysOrg.com: "Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have created a technoeconomic model that should help accelerate the development of a next generation of...biofuels....This on-line, wiki-based model enables researchers to pursue the most promising strategies for cost-efficient biorefinery operations by simulating such critical factors as production costs and energy balances under different processing scenarios."
    • "'The high production cost of biofuels has been the main factor limiting their widespread adoption,' says JBEI's Daniel Klein-Marcuschamer. 'We felt that a model of the biorefinery operation that was open, transparent about the assumptions it uses, and updatable by the community of users could aid in guiding research in the direction where it is most likely to reduce the production cost of biofuels.'"
    • "Klein-Marcuschamer, a post-doctoral researcher in JBEI's Deconstruction Division, was the lead author of a paper describing this research that was published in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy. The paper is titled "Technoeconomic analysis of biofuels: A wiki-based platform for lignocellulosic biorefineries (PDF file).'"
    • "The initial JBEI technoeconomic model is formulated to simulate a lignocellulosic ethanol biorefinery that uses corn stover feedstock. Model input factors include the cost of transporting the stover to a refinery, the use of acid pre-treatments to break down lignin and enzymes to break down cellulose into simples sugars, and the fermentation of these simple sugars into ethanol using yeast. From such inputs, users can calculate the resulting energy and greenhouse gas output."[86]
  • In Defense of Biomass, 11 August 2010 by 25 x 25: "Over the past several years, the production of biomass for use as renewable energy has elicited criticism from some on Capitol Hill and from some in the environmental community who have drawn their conclusions from flawed assumptions and misconstrued data."
    • "The latest assault is focused on greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy and other biogenic sources and more specifically how they should be calculated. Farm and forestry bioenergy feedstock suppliers and their partners along the value-chain are being aggressively challenged about the ways in which they measure and account for the differences between bioenergy pathways and fossil fuel pathways."
    • "In response, the 25x’25 Alliance has created a new work group that will develop recommendations for how greenhouse emissions (GHGs) from biomass energy development should be calculated. The mission of the Work Group is to develop a set of overarching bioenergy accounting principles that policy makers and regulators can use to assess the GHGs from bioenergy and other biogenic sources."
    • "The EPA is currently soliciting information and viewpoints to help the agency address the issue of the carbon neutrality of biogenic energy. The agency has imposed a Sept. 13 deadline for the public comment period, and the Work Group’s first priority is to study the issue of biogenic emissions and provide EPA with information and recommendations."[90]
  • Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels adopts 50% GHG Threshold for Compliant Fuel Blends, 23 July 2010 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels: As reported in the Summary Report of the RSB Steering Board Meeting held 15-17 June 2010 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the RSB Steering Board adopted a “significant and ambitious” decision regarding the GHG Emissions Threshold (Criterion 3c) that should be established for RSB-qualifying biofuels.
    • The decision adopted by consensus was that "[T]he blend obtained by a retailer/blender by mixing RSB compliant biofuels from various sources, shall have 50% lower GHG emissions than fossil fuel on average. Such blend of biofuels or a neat biofuel (i.e. pure biofuel sold unblended) cannot make any claim of compliance if it does not reduce GHG emissions by 50%."
    • In addition, 'all individual RSB compliant biofuels shall have lower GHG emissions over their life cycle, compared to the fossil fuel baseline".[92]
  • New CBO Report Examines Biofuels Tax Incentives, 16 July 2010 by Mackinnon Lawrence: "CBO releases report this week assessing biofuel incentives. Study finds that biofuel subsidies, costs associated with reducing petroleum use and GHG emissions vary by fuel."
    • "First, after making adjustments for the different energy contents of the various biofuels and the petroleum fuel used to produce them, the report finds that producers of ethanol made from corn receive 73 cents to provide an amount of biofuel with the energy equivalent to that in one gallon of gasoline. On a similar basis, producers of cellulosic ethanol receive $1.62, and producers of biodiesel receive $1.08."
    • "Second, the report finds reducing petroleum use costs taxpayers anywhere from $1.78 – 3.00 per one gallon of gasoline, again, depending on the type of fuel."
    • "Third, the costs to taxpayers of reducing greenhouse gas emissions varies from $275 per metric ton of CO2e for cellulosic, $300 per metric ton for CO2e for biodiesel, and about $750 per metric ton of CO2e for ethanol . NOTE: the CBO estimates do not reflect any emissions associated with land use change (direct or indirect)."
    • "Domestic Fuel reports this week that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) asserts the report provides no comparison to other technologies or types of biofuels against the destruction that goes hand in hand with fossil fuel production."[93]
  • Klobuchar bill: trojan horse for bad biofuels, 14 July 2010, Nathanael Greene’s Blog/NRDC: "It should come as no surprise that the first copy of the full text of Sen Klobuchar's energy bill was found on a corn ethanol industry association website; the bill reads like the industry's wish list."
    • "Today's corn ethanol is mature and mainstream and, unfortunately, generally causes more global warming pollution than gasoline."
    • "Here are some of laundry list of bad biofuel provisions:
Sketch of an apparatus for testing biofuel potential of various agricultural wastes, created by the RPI spring 2010 biomass capstone group. Image from The New York Times blog article A New Approach to Biofuel in Africa
  • A New Approach to Biofuel in Africa, 12 July 2010 by Ron Eglash: "The biofuel concept: If you just burn plant materials, you put out a lot of bad pollutants. But if you heat the materials in a container without oxygen (“pyrolysis”), you leave most of the carbon as “biochar,” which makes an excellent soil additive (in fact Amazon Indians built up rich soils over hundreds of years using biochar). The gas that is given off by pyrolysis can be processed into clean-burning fuel."
    • "All of which sounds great, but skeptics point out that Africa is a prime target for biofuel land grabs, which destroy small farms and forest preserves. Hence the importance of using agricultural residues like corn cobs, and researching the impact."[95]
  • New Rules May Cloud the Outlook for Biomass, 9 July 2010 by New York Times: "An energy technology that has long been viewed as a clean and climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels is facing tough new regulatory hurdles that could ultimately hamper its ability to compete with renewable power sources like wind and solar."
    • Biomass power, "a $1 billion industry in the United States...has long been considered both renewable and carbon-neutral on its most basic level."
    • "But many environmental groups say that the benefits of biomass power — and all forms of energy derived from organic sources, including biofuels — are realized only in carefully controlled circumstances. The cycle of carbon emission and absorption also unfolds over long periods of time that need to be carefully monitored."[96]
  • For Gulf, Biofuels Are Worse Than Oil Spill , 17 June 2010 editorial by Investor's Business Daily: "Our growing addiction to alternative energy was killing aquatic life in the Gulf long before the Deepwater Horizon spill. Abandoning oil will kill more and also release more carbon dioxide into the air."
    • "All of this may not be as visually exciting as a gushing oil well a mile below the Gulf, but it shows no form of energy is pain-free and the benefits and trade-offs of any form of energy must be judged on the basis of science and not ideology."[98]
  • Net Benefits of Biomass Power Under Scrutiny, 18 June 2010 by Tom Zeller Jr. from The New York Times: "Matthew Wolfe, an energy developer with plans to turn tree branches and other woody debris into electric power, sees himself as a positive force in the effort to wean his state off of planet-warming fossil fuels."
    • "[P]ower generated by burning wood, plants and other organic material, which makes up 50 percent of all renewable energy produced in the United States, according to federal statistics, is facing increased scrutiny and opposition."
    • "Biomass proponents say it is a simple and proved renewable technology based on natural cycles. They acknowledge that burning wood and other organic matter releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere just as coal does, but point out that trees and plants also absorb the gas. If done carefully, and without overharvesting, they say, the damage to the climate can be offset."
    • "But opponents say achieving that sort of balance is almost impossible, and carbon-absorbing forests will ultimately be destroyed to feed a voracious biomass industry fueled inappropriately by clean-energy subsidies. They also argue that, like any incinerating operation, biomass plants generate all sorts of other pollution, including particulate matter. State and federal regulators are now puzzling over these arguments."[99]
  • Magically carbon neutral biomass, evil EPA rules and other myths, 18 June 2010 by Nathanael Greene on the NRDC Switchboard blog: "The [biomass] industry has convinced policymakers that no matter how much carbon is 'spent' when biomass is burned for energy, there will magically be enough income in the form of regrowth to cover all expenses. Because of this magic, the industry would have us categorically exclude their emissions when we do our carbon accounting."
    • A recent Massachusetts report "makes it very clear that most forest biomass is not carbon neutral."
    • "The ultimate solution is a comprehensive climate and energy bill that requires careful accounting of all carbon, including the carbon released and absorbed by biomass."[100]
  • Commission sets up system for certifying sustainable biofuels, 10 June 2010 by European Union @ United Nations: "On 10 June 2010, the Eurpopean Commission decided to encourage industry, governments and NGOs to set up certification schemes for all types of biofuels, including those imported into the EU."
    • "This will help implement the EU's requirements that biofuels must deliver substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and should not come from forests, wetlands and nature protection areas. The rules for certification schemes are part of a set of guidelines explaining how the Renewable Energy Directive, coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented."
    • "Biofuels must deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels, rising to 50% in 2017 and to 60%, for biofuels from new plants, in 2018."[102]
  • Scientists to Congress & Obama: count the carbon in biomass, 24 May 2010 blog post by Nathanael Greene at the Natural Resource Defense Council: "Today a group of leading scientists from across the country sent a letter to congressional leaders and Obama officials urging them to carefully count the carbon from biomass burned for energy as part of a comprehensive climate bill or any other legislation or regulation. The letter makes abundantly clear that failing to do so risks sacrificing forests around the globe and putting more pollution into the atmosphere, not less."
    • "[T]he American Power Act (APA) proposed by Senators Kerry and Lieberman provides a solid framework for reducing our global warming pollution and investing in a cleaner economy. Unfortunately, as proposed, the bill would turn a blind eye towards emissions from biomass combustion, threatening to significantly undermine the bills carbon reduction goals."[104]
  • Rainforests Lose Out in Senate's New Climate Bill, 18 May 2010 by Time: "The climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last June set an ambitious goal of conserving the carbon trapped in forests equal to 10% of U.S. emissions, and in doing so, set aside 5% of total emissions allowance value from carbon auctions, which could bring $3 to $5 billion a year, to the protection of forests in developing nations."
    • "But while the Kerry-Lieberman bill in the Senate has the same broad goal for conserving forests, it devotes no specific funds to stopping deforestation."
    • "Although the Senate bill does give the President the authority to designate up to 5% of carbon revenue to deforestation or other international aims within the context of a global deal, which is meaningful, it's not as effective as specifically dedicating money to stop deforestation. Further, limiting REDD in a U.S. climate bill could make getting a global deal — already a near impossible challenge — even tougher. REDD was one of the few areas that showed glimmers of promise at the chaotic U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen last December....But as the Senate bill stands now, REDD could end up dead."[105]
  • Biomass Industry Sees 'Chilling Message' in EPA's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rule, 14 May 2010 by Greenwire/New York Times: "U.S. EPA's final rule determining which sources will be subject to greenhouse gas permitting requirements does not exempt biomass power, a decision that has raised concern in the biomass industry."
    • "Issued yesterday, EPA's final 'tailoring' rule determines which polluters will be required to account for their greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permits when the agency begins to formally regulate the heat-trapping gases next January."
    • "Emissions from biomass or biogenic sources are treated the same as other sources of greenhouse gases in the final rule, EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn said."
    • "That decision 'came as a bit of a surprise to us,' said David Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners....Tenny's organization and other forestry groups had urged EPA to exclude biomass combustion from the requirements, arguing that the process is 'carbon neutral.'"
    • "Without an exemption from the tailoring rule, Tenny said, "what you have is an incentive for biomass producers to turn back to fossil fuels," because they offer a more concentrated energy source."[106]
  • EPA's Biofuel Mandates Based on Shaky Assumptions, Scientists Say, 20 April 2010 by SolveClimate: "Federal renewable fuel mandates have created an industry around corn ethanol that now consumes nearly a third of the U.S. corn crop. But what is the rationale behind those mandates in the first place? Several scientists have asked and found the answers to be unsound."
    • "When the Environmental Protection Agency revised its renewable fuel standards in February, the agency recalculated the lifecycle emissions of corn ethanol to find that it was 20 percent less greenhouse-gas emitting than gasoline and, therefore, qualified as a renewable fuel. Some wondered what had changed since an EPA review issued less than a year before found that emissions from corn ethanol were too high for it to qualify."
    • "As it turns out, none of the actual data about emissions from biofuels changed — just the way the EPA presented it....Specifically, the agency's new fuel standards assess each biofuel based on its assumed greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2022, the deadline by which renewable fuel production must be at levels mandated by the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007."
    • But focusing on the amount biofuels are expected to emit in 2022 'distorts the picture of today's biofuels,' according to Jeremy Martin, a senior analyst in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program."
    • "Even the EPA's own analysis 'shows that, in the near term, natural-gas-powered, dry-milled corn ethanol production results in an increase of greenhouse gas emissions of 12 to 33 percent compared to gasoline,' says Joe Fargione, a lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy."[107]
  • UN 'exaggerated' meat impact on climate change, 25 March 2010 by Farmer's Guardian: "A leading scientist has accused the UN of exaggerating the impact of meat and dairy production on climate change."
    • "A 2006 UN report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation claimed meat production was responsible for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions....The report, titled 'Livestock's Long Shadow', added agriculture had a greater impact on global warming than transport."
    • "But Professor Frank Mitloehner, an air quality specialist from the University of California at Davis (UCD), said agriculturefs impact had been exaggerated....He said the UN figures totted up emissions from farm to table ? including the impact of growing the feed, from livestock and from processing....However, transport emissions only considered emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving."
    • "He said leading authorities in the US agreed raising cattle and pigs for food accounted for about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation created an estimated 26 percent."[109]
  • Engineers Find Significant Environmental Impacts with Algae-Based Biofuel, Offer Alternative to Production, 21 January 2010 by Newswise: "[University of Virginia] research, just published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, demonstrates that algae production consumes more energy, has higher greenhouse gas emissions and uses more water than other biofuel sources, such as switchgrass, canola and corn."
    • "'Given what we know about algae production pilot projects over the past 10 to 15 years, we've found that algae's environmental footprint is larger than other terrestrial crops,' said Andres Clarens, an assistant professor in U.Va.'s Civil and Environmental Department and lead author on the paper."
    • "As an environmentally sustainable alternative to current algae production methods, the researchers propose situating algae production ponds behind wastewater treatment facilities to capture phosphorous and nitrogen – essential nutrients for growing algae that would otherwise need to be produced from petroleum."[110]
  • White House Clears Rules on Indirect GHG Emissions From Biofuels, 2 February 2010 by Greenwire/New York Times: "The White House has completed its review of controversial U.S. EPA regulations aimed at curbing renewable fuels' greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "The Office of Management and Budget signed off on the rule yesterday..., clearing EPA to finalize the long-delayed implementation of the renewable fuels standard that Congress included in the 2007 energy bill."
    • "The standard requires EPA to assess the "lifecycle" emissions of biofuels -- weighing the emissions from growing crops, producing fuels made from them, and distributing and using the fuels."
    • "The draft regulations EPA proposed last year sparked outrage from biofuels advocates and farm-state lawmakers who maintained the agency was unfair to ethanol."
    • "The EPA proposal measures emissions from "indirect" land-use changes associated with biofuels -- such as land that is deforested in other countries because of increased crop growth in the United States. The agency concluded, depending on the time frames modeled, that traditional corn ethanol could have a slightly larger emissions footprint than gasoline when land-use changes are factored in."[112]

2009

  • Copenhagen: Non-binding political accord under discussion as talks near an end, 18 December 2009 by Yale Environment 360: "With time running out in at the climate summit, negotiators are considering issuing a political statement, “The Copenhagen Accord,” that would not lead to a binding climate agreement next year but rather set a goal of halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."
    • "The accord would delay formal consideration of a treaty reducing greenhouse gas emissions until 2012, and in the meantime set a goal for industrialized nations to slash their greenhouse emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with emissions from all nations being cut by 50 percent by 2050."
  • Biofuels Take Center Stage in Copenhagen, 17 December 2009 by 25x'25 REsource Blog: Copenhagen climate summit events "highlighted the critically important role biofuels can play in addressing the multiple challenges that must be addressed in a rapidly changing world. Specifically, the events and discussions underscored how renewable, clean fuels sustainably created from current and next generation bioenergy feedstocks can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), improve food security, stimulate economic development and reduce global poverty."[114]
  • USDA Makes a Move on Methane, 12 December 2009 by CQ Politics: "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a conference call from Copenhagen that his department and the dairy industry have reached an agreement to accelerate efforts to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. The announcement is part of the Obama administration’s continuing campaign to convince farmers they can benefit from an international agreement on climate change."
    • "USDA will provide technical assistance and grants to dairy farmers for anaerobic digesters and generators used to compost manure, extract gases and burn them to produce electricity. Manure emits methane, a major greenhouse gas."[115]
  • Launching of the ‘National Biomass Cookstove Initiative’ by Indian Government, 3 December 2009 by HEDON Household Energy Network: "The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy launched a New Initiative on Improved Biomass Cookstoves 'National Biomass Cookstove Initiative' on the 2nd of December 2009 in New Delhi."
    • "A large section of [India's] population – 75% of the rural households and 22% of the urban households, according to the National Sample Survey’s 61st survey -- still uses biomass for its cooking needs. An estimated 80% of the residential energy in India comes from biomass, much of it burnt in traditional chulhas."
    • "[P]roviding a clean cooking energy option for these households will yield enormous gains in terms of health and socio-economic welfare of the weakest and the most vulnerable sections of society. At the same time, the cleaner combustion in these devices will greatly reduce the products of incomplete combustion which are greenhouse pollutants, thus helping combat climate change." [116]
  • Biomass energy 'could be harmful', 14 April 2009 by BBC News: "Biomass power - such as burning wood for energy - could do more harm than good in the battle to reduce greenhouse gases, the [UK] Environment Agency warns."
    • "Biomass is considered low carbon as long as what is burnt is replaced by new growth, and harvesting and transport do not use too much fuel."
    • "The EA's report reiterated the belief that biomass had the potential to play a 'major role' in producing low carbon, renewable energy to help meet future energy needs and help cut greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "But the report Biomass: Carbon Sink or Carbon Sinner (PDF file) also found that the greenhouse gas emission savings from such fuels were currently highly variable."[118]
  • Biofuel carbon footprint not as big as feared, Michigan State University research says, 15 January 2009 by MSU News: "Publications ranging from the journal Science to Time magazine have blasted biofuels for significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, calling into question the environmental benefits of making fuel from plant material. But a new analysis by Michigan State University scientists says these dire predictions are based on a set of assumptions that may not be correct."
    • "'Our analysis shows that crop management is a key factor in estimating greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use change associated with biofuels,' [MSU University Professor Bruce] Dale said. 'Sustainable management practices, such as no-till farming and planting cover crops, can reduce the time it takes for biofuels to overcome the carbon debt to three years for grassland conversion and 14 years for temperate zone forest conversion.'" [119]

2008

  • Continental to Test Flight Powered by Biofuel, 8 December 2008, by MSNBC:
    • "Continental Airlines Inc. said Monday it will test the use of a biofuel blend to power one of its jetliners on a flight that won't carry any passengers."
    • "Airlines are studying the use of alternative fuels to help deal with volatile jet fuel prices that spiked to record highs this summer, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."
    • "Continental said the plane on the Jan. 7 flight in Houston will use a special blend of half conventional fuel and half biofuel with ingredients derived from algae and jatropha plants." [120]
  • World needs to rethink biofuels - U.N. food agency, 7 October 2008 by Reuters: "The Western world needs to rethink its rush to biofuels, which has done more harm pushing up food prices than it has good by reducing greenhouse gases, a United Nations report said on Tuesday."
    • "'The report finds that while biofuels will offset only a modest share of fossil energy use over the next decade they will have much bigger impacts on agriculture and food security,' it said in its annual State of Food and Agriculture report."
    • "'In many cases, increased emissions from land-use change are likely to offset or even exceed the greenhouse gas savings obtained by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels, and impacts on water, soil and biodiversity are also a concern,' FAO said."[121]
  • Biofuel policies in OECD countries costly and ineffective, says report, 16 July 2008 press release by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): "Government support of biofuel production in OECD countries is costly, has a limited impact on reducing greenhouse gases and improving energy security, and has a significant impact on world crop prices, according to a new study of policies to promote greater production and use of biofuel in OECD countries."
    • "The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a primary reason for current biofuel policies but the savings are limited. Ethanol from sugar cane - the main feedstock used in Brazil – reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent compared to fossil fuels. But emission reductions are much smaller from biofuels based on feedstocks used in Europe and North America."
    • Biofuels produced from wheat, sugar beet or vegetable oil rarely provide emission savings of more than 30 to 60 percent while savings from corn (maize) based ethanol are generally less than 30 percent. Overall, the continuation of current biofuel support policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuel by no more than 0.8 percent by 2015."[122]

2007


Climate change edit

Carbon/Carbon dioxide (CO2)/Carbon balance: Carbon emissions/Net (carbon) emissions | Carbon footprint | Carbon negative biofuels | Carbon neutrality
Carbon offsets | Carbon sequestration/Carbon storage | Life-cycle analysis (Models) | Low carbon | Low Carbon Fuel Standard
Land - Desertification | Erosion | Deforestation (REDD)
Policy: UNFCCC: Kyoto Protocol (Clean Development Mechanism), Copenhagen COP15 (Copenhagen Accord) | American Clean Energy and Security Act

Environment edit
Climate change - Greenhouse gases | Ecosystems (Forests, Grasslands, Wetlands) | Life-cycle analysis
Species (Biodiversity, Invasive species, Orangutans)
Biotechnology/Genetically Modified Organisms | Pollution | Soil (Soil erosion)
Land - Desertification | REDD
RSB Working Group on Environment


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