Is the environment paying the price for renewable biofuels?



Current energy policies address environmental issues including environmentally friendly technologies to increase energy supplies, usage of sustainable energy and encourage cleaner, more efficient energy use, with special attention to air pollution, greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change. The biofuel policy aims to promote the use of fuels made from biomass,as well as other renewable fuels in transport and to produce electricity. Although biofuels do not have the potential to overcome the escalating oil problem, for some people it is the forerunner of a new and environment-friendly life style. This apprehension is partly true because, like everything else, biofuels have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, before presenting new policies regarding biofuels, their effects should be meticulously and carefully examined. Biofuels have negative effects on food safety, in two ways. First and the most important of these effects is biofuel sector’s high demand of agricultural produce, whichwould result in shortage of global food supply. Secondly, it is understood that biofuel sector’s agricultural produce demand play an important role in the rise of food prices, and it poses a threat to food availability and accessibility. Concerning biofuel and agricultural environment interaction, increased land usage and intense agricultural production of biofuels cause erosion and pollution. While increased land usage and intense agricultural production causes the organic and inorganic components to be depleted within the soil and therefore the minerals become deficient, agricultural processes that use fertilizers, pesticides and similar chemicals cause the soil to be polluted faster. According to the data acquired, more than 20 million hectares of agricultural land worldwide is marked as areas for biofuel raw material production. This leads to additional land use and intensive agricultural production, which also has negative effects on soil quality. Moreover, agricultural production needs water. Water is an important a part of agricultural production, and as an environmental concern, it faces depletion. Additional agricultural processes to produce especially sugar cane, sugar beet, palm oil and corn for biofuel production, which consume more water compared to other agricultural processes, result in excessive amount of water consumption, which will result in water scarcity. Additionally, in the process of biofuel production, agricultural products are washed and dried using vapor, which also results in excessive amount of water requirement, which also results in water scarcity problem to deepen. There is rising scepticism about the potential positive environmental impacts of first generation biofuels. Aside from findings about their role within the recent food price crisis, doubts are raised about their real contribution to global climate change mitigation. This debate happens at a time when government commitments for biofuel production have even strengthened for the last couple of years. In the United States (US), the Energy Independence and Security Act signed in 2007 set an objective of 36 billion gallons of production in 2022. In the European Union (EU), the directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, endorsed in December 2008 by the European Parliament, confirmed the objective of a ten document of bioenergy in EU transportation by 2020

Relevant Publications in Archives of Industrial Biotechnology