Tag Archives: energy

Reasons not to jump on the bashing-biofuels-bandwagon

A couple weeks ago you may have noticed that Richard Branson (the oh so flashy Virgin mogul) launched the first ever commercial aircraft run on biofuel (partly). This was met with huge amount of criticism.

Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner, said: “Biofuels are a major distraction in the fight against climate change. “There is mounting evidence that the carbon savings from biofuels are negligible. If Virgin was really serious about reducing the aviation industry’s impact on the environment, it would support calls for aircraft emissions to be included in the Climate Change Bill.”

Ever since the new study from the Nature Conservancy came out a few weeks ago putting down biofuels as more carbon intensive than fossil fuels, there has been a slew of biofuel rants – from the ‘green’ websites, to the major media sources, and of course from the oil and gas industry😉

They have some reason though…

Reasons for biofuels being bad:

  • turning food crops into energy crops makes the price of food sky rocket
  • more carbon stored in plants and soils than in air – so when you burn it, the c02 level is still (sometimes higher than those in fossil fuels) – the way they measure co2 emissions from biofuels is said to be neutral since new trees are planted thus negating the emissions since these new ones take in co2)
  • the energy balance can be negative (i.e. takes more energy to produce the energy than what you get out of it in the end)
  • many other I’m sure.. wikipedia’s post always has a balanced view;)


With all this bad media, I’m worried that people are going to blacklist ALL biofuels …. which is NOT A GOOD THING!

Thankfully, someone weighs in with a balanced discussion on the matter. Tyler Hamilton, Toronto Star’s cleantech writer gave a great post same day that Branson launched his flight.

He gave some really good points but to add to those, here are mine.

Reasons for biofuels being good (or reasons to not jump on the bashing biofuels bandwagon)

  • biofuels are also wood waste! There is some definite eco-efficiency logic behind taking the leftovers of the pulp and paper industry waste and converting that into energy (blogged about this before)
    • must look at the energy balance of them… even the Nature Conservancy report says that! I’m just afraid that people are just labelling all biofuels as the same…
  • we think that the solution to climate change is either in solar or in wind or in fuel cells OR, OR, OR… let’s start thinking of AND, AND AND! biofuels are still part of the fix. (Great book on that here)
  • the real problem is in subsidizing farmers to switch to corn for energy. I’m still an economics student. I don’t like how much the gov’t subsidizes the oil and gas industry… still don’t like it when the heavily subsidize one particular ‘green’ energy. Let the market work. I’m ok with eco-taxes where fiscal policy is shifted to support sustainable activities and tax polluting activities. Just the gov’t shouldn’t put their eggs in one basket. That’s for the market to decide.

Anyways, there’s my rant for the day. Have any other opinions on this? I’d love to hear them.Now back to homework.

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