I’m sad about biofuels. It just sounded like such a great idea didn’t it? We don’t need to dig oil out of the ground, let’s grow it instead! Plants could be a renewable source of energy, hooray! (I also got excited at university about the prospect of freakish plastic-producing GM crops – fields growing yoghurt pot ingredients instead of big horrible polluting factories.)
But the flaws with biofuels are becoming too big to ignore.
Let’s grow fuel instead of food. Oops, now there’s no food. Or not enough to stop spiralling food prices. And the glaring problem that biofuels are a pretty rubbish alternative to oil – considering that producing biofuels is very thirsty in terms of energy, particularly in terms of manufacturing fertilisers and pesticides to keep up crop yields. The rising prices for both food and biofuels are a great incentive for developing countries to cut down more rainforest. Ah, weren’t we trying to stop all that? (Good summary by Jeffrey A McNeely is chief scientist of IUCN, World Conservation Union here.)It’s just a horrible big circle that brings you back to the problem of our excessive energy use in the first place.
In a brilliant fudge, the UK today said it would slow down introducing biofuels, while still actually introducing them, after a cautious review by renewable energy big-wig Professor Ed Gallagher.
The Global Forest Coalition picked up on Gallagher’s support for second-generation biofuels, which it says will still have an effect on food supplies and encourage deforestation. UK’s Biofuel Watch maintains “agrofuels” are not sustainable.The biofuels debate just goes to show there aren’t quick-fix solutions to climate change. And that we can’t combat consumerism with green consumerism. Green cars are better than dirty, gas-guzzlers. Even better is living so you don’t have to drive miles to work, to the shops and so on. But now I’m sounding like a terrible hippy.