Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fields of Fuel? But, biofuels are not enough !!

A new environmental documentary was released at the Sundance Film Festival the "Fields of Fuel". This movie focuses on the importance of the bio-fuels and how they will replace the dependence on oil.

Question: Is Yellow, the new Green?

Some might say that it is, but we should look at both the sides - Energy and Environment. It might reduce our dependence on the oil, on a short term basis, but the interlinkages with the food supply and the environment (air & water pollution), this gets complicated.

According to Mark Jacobson of Standford University, when it comes to energy sustainability, the other alternatives such as solar and wind, rank higher than the biofuels.

Some recent publications and reports on this topic include
The end use benefits of the biofuels are uncharted and the most uncertain. One of the major concerns is the air pollution and the benefits, primarily depend on the life cycle assessments. Farther the transport of the fuel, larger the emission quotient.

Even if the introduction of biofuels reduce the direct emissions from transport, the fugitive emissions such as wind erosion due to deforestation and burning of the landscapes for feedstock cultivation is a very uncertain (and large) source of emissions and growing (FAIR trade report of 2006, "Sustainability of Brazilian Bioethanol", presents an analysis of Amazon forest clearing for sugarcane production).

(click on the image for source and further details)

This clearing of rain forests for biofuels is happening in Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia (Fire & Haze - Cost of Catastrophes, Global Palm Oil Demand Fueling Reforestation by WWI, April, 2009), and will probably continue in the other parts of the developing world (The cost of Biofuel boom is destroying the Indonesian forests & Biofuels could fuel rainforest destruction).

Economics favors production of these biofuels, since they are cheaper than petroleum - even though they may be worse for local pollution and climate.

Rural in-situ applications of biofuels have done well.
April, 2009: FAO published a study on the small-scale bioenergy production and rural development.

Enjoy some cartoons on Ethanol.


Stefanus said...

Do you have stories about the "goodness" of biofuels? Please post them if do you have any.

Thanks a lot.

Stefanus Muryanto,

Sarath Guttikunda said...

Jatropha Biodiesel Helping Poorer Communities, Bioenergy Magazine, March 30th, 2009