by Ali Siddiqui
An article by Justin Gillis for The New York Times discusses a new report published by World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington, that suggests that biofuels are not the direction policy makers should be heading when considering alternative energy. Biofuels are fuels created by plant matter. Timothy D. Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton and primary author of this report, was quoted in this article to have said that they were an “inefficient way to convert sunlight to fuel”.
The report has stated that earlier policy made under the assumption that biofuels were a shining promise in the future of energy has actually helped drive up global food prices, worsened some types of air pollution, and done little to reduce carbon emissions. The thought was that these biofuels would be grown and burned, but that the new crops put in place would remove the released emitted gas before being burned again. This idea in practice fell short.
Another interesting consideration put forth was that the efficiency of biofuels with respect to how it incorporated the value of its land was missing. The opportunity cost of what else could be done with the land is significantly higher in the minds of some scientists than the recent low success of biofuels.
Also interesting to note was that most of the pro-biofuel policies that were adapted were done in a period of time when solar energy like many other sources of renewable energy was extremely expensive. In a time, when the costs of these other potential sources of energy have slightly dropped, is it time to drop biofuels as well?
Gillis, Justin. New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels. New York Times. January 19th 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/science/new-report-urges-western-governments-to-reconsider-reliance-on-biofuels.html?ref=science&_r=1