Humanity is having a hard time breaking free from its addiction to fossil fuels. Over the past two decades, efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions have often looked more like baby steps and meager compromises than the radical solutions many scientists have been calling for. One of those compromises in Europe was to continue driving our cars, trucks and motorcycles as we always have. But instead of running on fossil fuels alone, we introduced a climate-friendly substitute: plant-based biofuels. Blended with diesel and gasoline, fuels made from plants such as canola, cereals, wheat, corn and oil palm have helped us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions. Or so we thought…
Transport accounts for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, with road transport specifically responsible for 70 percent of all emissions from the sector. Unlike other sectors in Europe, emissions from transport have increased over the last 30 years. In part, the researchers say, this may be because biofuels aren’t exactly the climate allies we’ve been led to believe they are.
What’s wrong with biofuels?
Biofuels are “false solutions” to the pressing problem of reducing carbon emissions, concludes a new study commissioned by Environmental Action Germany (DUH). Analyzing the production and consumption of biofuels in Germany, researchers found that vast areas of land around the world are being “wasted” to grow these fuels at a huge cost to the environment. To satisfy Germany’s huge appetite for these natural biofuels, more than 1.2 million hectares of land – almost five times the size of Luxembourg – is used to grow these crops. Although the study was limited to Germany, the researchers say their findings apply across Europe.