A new look at Biofuels - a more efficient idea

Nice article at New Scientist:

Forget biofuels - burn oil and plant forests instead
It sounds counterintuitive, but burning oil and planting forests to compensate is more environmentally friendly than burning biofuel. So say scientists who have calculated the difference in net emissions between using land to produce biofuel and the alternative: fuelling cars with gasoline and replanting forests on the land instead.

They recommend governments steer away from biofuel and focus on reforestation and maximising the efficiency of fossil fuels instead.

The reason is that producing biofuel is not a "green process". It requires tractors and fertilisers and land, all of which means burning fossil fuels to make "green" fuel. In the case of bioethanol produced from corn - an alternative to oil - "it's essentially a zero-sums game," says Ghislaine Kieffer, programme manager for Latin America at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France (see Complete carbon footprint of biofuel - or is it?).

What is more, environmentalists have expressed concerns that the growing political backing that biofuel is enjoying will mean forests will be chopped down to make room for biofuel crops such as maize and sugarcane. "When you do this, you immediately release between 100 and 200 tonnes of carbon [per hectare]," says Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust, UK, a conservation agency that seeks to preserve rainforests.

A bit more:

They found that reforestation would sequester between two and nine times as much carbon over 30 years than would be saved by burning biofuels instead of gasoline (see bar chart, right). "You get far more carbon sequestered by planting forests than you avoid emissions by producing biofuels on the same land," says Righelato.

I know that a lot of the Amazon rainforest is being hacked down for crops for biofuels as well as for grazing land for cattle. Moving the emphasis over to reforestation and intelligent use of petroleum products makes a lot of sense...

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