Biofuel Foresty: Good Idea?

by Jackson Cooney

In an effort to reduce the use of gasoline and diesel many governments have pushed to increase the use of bioenergy, but today, biofuel makes up only 2.5 percent of the worlds transportation fuels. The European Union estimates that their dependence on biofuel will increase to 10 percent by 2020, and, the US also is expecting a large increase. The International Energy Agency foresees biofuel as accounting for 27 percent of the world’s transportation fuel by midcentury. Other renewable energy options seem more limited because, with the current technologies, it would be impossible to supply the entire world’s energy needs with wind and solar sources. The Environmental Protection Agency also supports the biofuel initiative by labeling the harvest of forests a “carbon-fee source”.

As good as biofuel sounds, Porter (2015) points out that there are still problems. The EPA argues that biofuel is carbon free because when plants grow, they pull CO2 out of the atmosphere offsetting the CO2 that is released when they are burned. However, burning the biomass doesn’t enable the trees, for example, to keep absorbing CO2, so the CO2 that the biomass would have absorbed still remains. Because of this, using biofuel cannot be labeled accurately as a “carbon-free source”. Also converting a plot of land to grow biofuel eliminates the possibility of using that land to grow food or to store CO2 in vegetation that would otherwise be growing there. If more of the world’s land is converted to produce biomass, which would be necessary to use biofuel as a significant energy source, then there would be a decrease in the amount of food we could produce and the amount of CO2 that could be absorbed. Much of the land in the U.S. that was once used for biofuel has reverted back to forests. According to Porter, it seems beneficial to keep these forests as they are and not use them to produce biofuel.

Porter, E. (2015, February 10). A Biofuel Debate: Will Cutting Trees Cut Carbon? Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/business/economy/a-biofuel-debate-will-cutting-trees-cut-carbon.html

 

 

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