Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Some Biofuels Are Worse Environmentally Than Fossil Fuels, Analysis Shows

Date:
January 7, 2008
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
Biofuels reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in comparison to fossil fuels. In the journal Science, researchers consider environmental costs of biofuel production. Corn, soy and sugarcane come up short. The authors urge governments to be far more selective about which biofuels they support, as not all are more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.

US cornfield. Fuels made from U.S. corn, Brazilian soy and Malaysian palm oil may be environmentally worse overall than fossil fuels.
Credit: Bob Nichols

Biofuels reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in comparison to fossil fuels. Smithsonian researchers highlight a new study that factors in environmental costs of biofuel production. Corn, soy and sugarcane come up short. The authors urge governments to be far more selective about which biofuels they support, as not all are more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.

Because fossil fuels contribute to global warming and supplies are dwindling, more eco-friendly alternatives are required. However, biofuels may not be superior if their production results in environmental destruction, pollution and damage to human health, argue postdoctoral fellow Jörn Scharlemann and William Laurance, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

A new study by Zah et al., commissioned by the Swiss government, calculates the relative merits of 26 biofuels based on relative reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and an environmental-impact index, which includes damages to human health and ecosystems and natural resource depletion.

The Swiss study identifies striking differences in the environmental costs of different biofuels. Fuels made from U.S. corn, Brazilian soy and Malaysian palm oil may be worse overall than fossil fuels. The best alternatives include biofuels from residual products, such as recycled cooking oil and ethanol from grass or wood.

The Zah et al. study falls short in that it fails to consider secondary consequences of biofuels, such as rising food costs, but it is a big step forward in providing a way to compare the environmental benefits and costs of dozens of different biofuels.

"Different biofuels vary enormously in how eco-friendly they are," said Laurance. "We need to be smart and promote the right biofuels, or we won't be helping the environment much at all."

Journal article: Scharlemann, JPW and Laurance, WF (2008); "How Green are Biofuels?" Science 319: 52-53


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Some Biofuels Are Worse Environmentally Than Fossil Fuels, Analysis Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103144404.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2008, January 7). Some Biofuels Are Worse Environmentally Than Fossil Fuels, Analysis Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103144404.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Some Biofuels Are Worse Environmentally Than Fossil Fuels, Analysis Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103144404.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Napa Valley Wine Grower Survives Catastrophic California Drought

Napa Valley Wine Grower Survives Catastrophic California Drought

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) — Despite a severe drought in California, Mumm Napa's winemaker says this season's crop may be better than average thanks to well-timed spring rains. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History

New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History

Newsy (July 31, 2014) — Scientists say when the moon was young, it was deformed by the Earth's gravitational pull, which gave it a lemon-like shape. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins