Biomass, hot issue - Smart choices in difficult times

Jul 2008

The use of biobased raw materials for energy and material has been brought into discredit in the past years. The use of bioenergy is repeatedly held responsible for the recent food crisis and for the deforestation of rainforest, and questions are being asked about the advantages to the climate. As a result of this discussion, the joint Platforms in Energy Transition have once again considered their position in respect to biomass. Along with the Biobased Raw Materials Platform, these are the Chain Efficiency Platform, the New Gas Platform, the Sustainable Mobility Platform and the Sustainable Electricity Supply Platform.
The Platforms share the concerns existing in wider circles. Bioenergy must not be produced at the cost of food provisions. At the same time the Platforms are of the opinion that biomass is essential for achieving a sustainable energy system. It appears from scientific research that agriculture can produce sufficient food and energy and materials. The productivity of agriculture continues to increase, even though the efforts required have not come up to mark in large parts of the world during the last decade. Limits for retaining biodiversity are respected in the intelligent use of biomass: no damage to natural areas for new production. Care is taken of improved performance in crops: less artificial fertilizer, higher yields. Types of agriculture that are beneficial to the environment, labour conditions and local economy are stimulated in the production countries. The efficiency of the entire chain, from plant to food and use of biofuels, is increasing continually which in turn decreases the emission of greenhouse gases. Waste products are used usefully. New crops with high yields are being developed. And new products are being made and new applications are being opened up with the new technologies. Clever crops and clever technologies form an essential part of the intelligent use of biomass. Boundaries that appear now can be shifted with sufficient effort far away in ten years time. The efficiency can be increased with clever technologies, not only for the energy and material chains, but also for the food chain.
It goes without saying that world food production, local as well, must not suffer from the production of bioenergy. Clear criteria must be set out to achieve this and there should be some type of monitoring to check whether it is upheld. The EC has formulated criteria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom preceded the EC in this. A large potential of biomass can be developed in a responsible fashion with intelligent use and consideration to the conditions in force.

By: Energy Transition (Biobased Raw Materials Platform)

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