Study Claims Biofuels Could Worsen Global Warming

Renewable energy groups dispute findings.

Published on: Feb 12, 2008

The journal Science published a study last week that says clearing land for the production of biofuels would produce twice as much greenhouse gas as the use of biofuels would reduce.

The 25x'25 Alliance responded to the study and coverage from mainstream media, saying they failed to cover the fact that there are ways to avoid problems and have biofuels give both a renewable energy source and reduced greenhouse emissions.

The National Corn Growers Association agrees and says that land use changes cannot be looked at in the singular context of increased biofuels production. The impacts and interplay of numerous global economic, social and political factors on land use also need to be considered.

Environmentally sensitive lands should not be exploited for renewable fuels according to 25x'25, instead the increased demand for energy, food, feed and fiber can be met through technology. The development of cellulosic ethanol will not only minimize land use changes but help the environment.

A recent study of the use of switchgrass for ethanol by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed that it produced 540% more energy than it took to grow it. Switchgrass offers many environmental benefits such as preventing runoff, putting organic material back into the ground improving soil and requires no pesticides or fertilizer.

"Analyzing the impact of increased biofuels production on domestic and international land use change is a complex process and a relatively new area of study for the scientific community," says NCGA Director of Development Tim Brackman. "The scientific community should be discouraged from "rushing to judgment" on these issues simply to satisfy political timetables. All serious scientific efforts and approaches must be given an opportunity to contribute."