Smart choices for biofuels

Jan 2009

Much of the strong support for biofuels in the United States is premised on the national security advantages of reducing dependence on imported oil. In late 2007, these expected payoffs played a major role in driving an extension and expansion of the national Renewable Fuels Standard in the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which calls for the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels nationwide by 2022.
Worldwide, efforts to replace oil with biofuels are at a critical juncture. Double-digit growth in ethanol and biodiesel use during the past three years has contributed to a rapid increase in food, feed grain, and soybean prices, as well as a sharp environmental backlash.
Evidence is building that the biofuels industry is creating a host of ecological problems while failing to deliver real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Demand for biofuels is also creating global pressure for carbon-emitting deforestation and land conversion, as food and fuel compete for scarce resources.
Over the next decade and beyond, U.S. national, state, and local policy must focus on developing sustainable biofuels—rather than just more biofuels—that can play a role in the emerging new energy economy. These fuels should be seen as part of an expanded renewable energy portfolio that emphasizes greater fuel efficiency and reduced demand as well as the development of new sustainable energy technologies that may one day go beyond biofuels. But this can only succeed if we avoid the mistakes of the past.

By: Worldwatch Institute - Sierra Club

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