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Page last update: 25/12/2008

Report highlights how far biotech has advanced healthcare

"The novelty of biofuels, the vast array of issues involved and the lack of knowledge to tackle many of them, together with diverging political and business interests mean that consensus is elusive. It is therefore increasingly urgent to map a path for the global biofuels industry that supports sustainable development,' says Annie Dufey, the author of a new report on biofuels."

The report has been published by the International Institute for Environment and Development. It looks at the social, economic and environmental advantages that biofuels could have, but also examines the damage that they could cause in developing countries.

Biofuels are liquid fuels produced from oily or starchy 'energy crops' such as sugarcane, corn and soybeans. The EU is investing in research to develop second generation biofuels - involving gas or biomass - to the point that they are potential competitive alternatives to hydrocarbons.

Biofuel's impacts

Dr Dufey fears that an increasing demand for first generation biofuels in industrialized countries could impact negatively upon developing countries. The Netherlands, for example, is expected to import 80% of the necessary feedstock to meet its ambitious biofuels goal.

"In addition to the current high oil prices, the rapid development of biofuels has largely been driven by the promise of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, yet environmental benefits could be lost if the sector's expansion leads to further deforestation," says Dr Dufey. "Development benefits could also be lost if the choice of crop leads to competition for water resources or for land used to grow food crops" she writes. Other potential problems are monocropping, land degradation and water pollution.

On a more positive note, biofuels have the power to reduce greenhouse gases as well as the emissions of toxic substances such as carbon monoxide, particulate materials and sulphates.

The report calls for industrialized countries to analyze the global impacts of their domestic policies for biofuels, and to pay particular attention to the sustainable development of developing countries. For their part, developing countries are advised to seize opportunities as they arise, but to be aware of the costs of the biofuels market and to identify those that fit best with their sustainable development goals.

Biofuels will be under discussion at an international conference on renewable energy taking place in Brussels from 29 to 31 January as part of the EU's Sustainable Energy Week.

Source: CORDIS sources
More Information:
International Institute for Environment and Development

Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top