Issue Date: September 17, 2007
OECD Questions Biofuel Expansion
Strong fears that an international "rush to energy crops" to reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum consumption will result in global food shortages in the near future were voiced in a recent report prepared by a panel of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. "When acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss, and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel," says the report. The report's authors argue that only sugarcane-to-ethanol production in Brazil, cellulosic ethanol made in Sweden and Switzerland, and biodiesel production from animal fat or used cooking oil can substantially reduce CO2 emissions, compared with gasoline. Other biofuel feedstocks, which compete with food uses, deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions of less than 40%, compared with gasoline and other fossil fuels, the report says. Among its recommendations, the report urges countries to end mandates for biofuel production, as the U.S. does, and replace them with technologically neutral policies, such as carbon taxes that may stimulate energy efficiency and a broad range of approaches to reduce CO2 emissions. The report is available at www.oecd.org/dataoecd/40/25/39266869.pdf.
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