Monday, January 14, 2008

Biofuels News: Indonesian Boom, Switchgrass Potential, Subsidies Attacked

Biofuels where, for a short time, one of the green movements' favourite options for reducing emissions. This was all brought quickly down to earth by groups such as biofuelwatch who have been highlighting the less than ideal ways that these crops have been grown. From deforestation to compaetition with food, land degredation and slave like labour conditions, much of the industry isn't looking very ecologically friendly now.

This week several developments occured in this area.

  1. One of the worst examples of biofuel production is the use of palm oil in indonesia for producing diesel. Deforestation, peat fires and labour issues combine in making this an area that most recognise as in need of increased attention. This week a doubling of production capacity has been predicted.
  2. A USDA funded study in Nebraska has found that switchgrass, which can be grown on marginal land with limited fertiliser input has better than expected return on investment energy output. Around 5.4 times the energy can be hurvested as invested.
  3. A study by the Smithsonian Tropical Rainforest Institute has found that, amongst other things, subsidies for corn ethanol in the US are increasing deforestation in the amazon. The report calls for govornment restraint on biofuels subsidies and for futher research funding for second generation cellulosic biofuels.

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