Biofuels Are Worse For Climate Than Gasoline, Study Finds

Posted: Aug 27 2016, 10:15am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 27 2016, 10:21am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Biofuels are Worse for Climate Than Gasoline, Study Finds
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New research reveals that biofuels led to increase carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere rather than decrease and caused global warming

Biofuel, as the name suggests, is a fuel that is produced through biological processes instead of ecological processes such as coal and petroleum and the use of this fuel has increased substantially over the past decade or so. 

It has been widely assumed that biofuels produce less pollution than oil or petroleum derived liquids but a new research challenges this old, eco- friendly perception of biofuels. Researchers from University of Michigan suggest that biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are not as safe as generally thought, in fact, they have led to a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions and are worse for climate than petroleum fuels. 

Biofuels are considered inherently carbon-neutral, meaning they reduced green house emissions by balancing the effects of carbon dioxide. Experts say that plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, so crops grown for biofuels should absorb the carbon dioxide that comes from burning the fuels they produce. But researchers have found that rising biofuel use has caused a net increase - rather than a net decrease, resulting in more carbon pollution and global warming than using gasoline.

This is the first study to carefully examine the carbon on farmland when biofuels are grown, instead of just making assumptions about it," DeCicco said. "When you look at what's actually happening on the land, you find that not enough carbon is being removed from the atmosphere to balance what's coming out of the tailpipe.”Lead author John DeCicco said

Previously, the effects of biofuels were mostly based on assumptions. Lifecycle analysis, a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with a product’s whole life suggests that all carbon pollution from biofuels is eventually absorbed by growing crops. But when researchers from University of Michigan applied a different approach to assess the impact, they came up with astonishing results. Instead of modeling carbon emissions, they analyzed real world data on crop production, biofuel production, fossil fuel production and vehicle emissions from a period between 2005 and 2013 and found that plants absorbed just 37 percent of biofuel pollution during the eight years studied while left most of it in the atmosphere and produced a devastating impact on climate. 

“When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline. So the underpinnings of polices used to promote biofuels for reasons of climate have now been proved to be scientifically incorrect,” said DeCicco.

“Policymakers should reconsider their support for biofuels. This issue has been debated for many years. What’s now here is that hard data, straight from America’s croplands, now confirm the worst fears about the harm that biofuels do to the planet.”


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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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