More bad news for biofuels. Transforming ecosystems into farms for biofuel crops will increase global warming and result in net increases in carbon emissions, according to a new study.
Scientists have found that converting rainforests, peatlands and grasslands can outweigh the carbon savings made from biofuels and produce “carbon debts” which could take centuries to pay off.
The study will add to concerns about the ability of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. The EU is reviewing its pledge that biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel should make up 10% of transport fuel by 2020.
In the study, US researchers calculated that converting natural ecosystems to grow corn or sugarcane to produce ethanol, or palms or soybeans for biodiesel, could release between 17 and 420 times more carbon than the annual savings from replacing fossil fuels.
Stephen Polasky of the University of Minnesota, one of the authors of the study, published today in the journal Science, said: “We don’t have proper incentives in place because landowners are rewarded for producing palm oil and other products but not rewarded for carbon management. This creates incentives for excessive land clearing and can result in large increases in carbon emissions.”