News Brief

EU May Be Underestimating Biofuels GWP

A committee of 19 scientists and academics has issued a draft opinion for the European Environment Agency criticizing the European Union’s method for calculating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the use of biofuels. They charge that the European Union has failed to fully take into account the carbon sequestration and storage potential of land left in its natural state instead of being repurposed to grow biofuels.

For example, if a forest is replaced with a biofuel crop, the carbon emission reductions associated with using biofuels instead of fossil fuels would be compromised by the lost carbon storage and sequestration potential of the preexisting forest. While this example may represent an extreme case, any land repurposed for biofuel production must take into account the previous land use’s carbon sequestration and storage potential to accurately predict the reduction in GWP from biofuel use.

Soybeans, shown being harvested here, are a common biofuel crop. A committee of scientists has questioned the way in which the European Union has calculated CO2 reductions from the use of biofuels.

Photo: P. Blackford
This finding could ultimately result in a reduction in forecasts for the amount of environmentally viable energy available from biofuel crops in the future—something that could impact climate change models as well as farmers and businesses currently investing in biofuel production. To read the committee’s ”Opinion on Greenhouse Gas Accounting in Relation to Bioenergy,” go to www.eea.europa.eu.

Published November 1, 2011

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