Fleet News

Biofuels target 'a mistake'

An EU-wide target for biofuels to account for 10 per cent of all automotive fuel consumption by 2020 may be a 'mistake'.

A report published in the journal Science alleges that growing demand for biofuels may be leading to increased deforestation.

Dr Renton Righelato, one of the authors of the report, told the BBC: "The prime reason for the renewables obligation was to mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions."

However, according to the team of UK-based scientists, reforestation and habitat protection would be better options when it came to cutting carbon emissions and protecting the environment.

They say that an area of forest is capable of absorbing up to nine times more CO2 than if the equivalent area was used to produce biofuel crops.

Dr Righelato, chairman of the World Land Trust, added that the policy could actually lead to more deforestation as nations turned to countries outside of the EU to meet the growing demand for biofuels.

The research also considered what the impact of clearing forests in order to plant biofuel crops might be.

Dr Righelato told the BBC that forest clearances would have a significant impact on the environment and the greenhouse effect in particular.

"Forest carbon stocks are in the region of 100-300 tonnes per hectare. Three-quarters of that is lost over the first year during clearing and burning," he said. "It would take - in all the cases we examined - between 50 to 100 years to recover this carbon through the production of biofuels."

The report was more encouraging when it came to second generation biofuels - such as straw, grasses and wood, which could be used as fuels with far less of an impact on the environment - but second generation biofuel technology is believed to be some time away.

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