I have written a number of times about the problems with biofuels and biomass. Most governments seem to accept that these are “renewable” fuels and because of that associate them with low carbon fuels. They fail to understand that not all the carbon dioxide is taken up with new growth and in some cases, like ethanol made from corn, the net carbon dioxide emissions are higher than those created by burning oil. For that reason I have classified biofuels and biomass as “dirty” renewables.
The message is beginning to sink in. The European Union is now encouraging (but not mandating) member states to set up certification programs for biofuels, including wood and wood chip. I do not know yet how the certification system would work – no one does – but we can only hope that the standards would be stringent and genuinely address the problems that certain biofuels create, by banning them, or at least withdrawing all energy subsidies for them. Some criteria would clearly be established; palm oil from trees planted in cleared tropical forests could not possibly meet these criteria and neither would much of the wood pellets important into the United Kingdom for biomass boilers. It would also mean an end to ethanol imported from the United States made from corn masquerading as a green form of diesel oil for car engines.
Unfortunately the move is about a year too late. There are already strong vested interests in maintaining the status quo which will lobby and fight to preserve the subsidies upon which dirty renewable fuels have been built.
Filed under: biofuels, biogas, biomass, carbon dioxide, carbon emissions, climate change, global warming, renewables Tagged: | biofuels, biomass, classification of renewables, corn from ethanol, dirty renewables