Friday, August 25, 2006

A Critical Look At The Future Of Bio-fuels

Aug 24: The Washington, DC-based, Center for Science and Public Policy has posted a critical analysis entitled, The Future of Bio-fuels: A Blend of Hope and Concerns, by Richard S. Courtney. According to the synopsis of the report, "Biomass is biological material used as fuel, and biofuel is biomass that has been converted into a form that makes it useful as a displacement for a fossil fuel; for example, petroleum. Biomass is solar energy collected by photosynthesis over a small area and a few growing seasons in plants that are not compressed and not dried. Simple calculations of the solar energy collection at the Earth's surface demonstrate that no developments of biomass can provide significant amounts of energy because the energy required to farm and harvest it is a substantial proportion of the collected solar energy. And biomass cannot be economic because the net amount of energy harvested can only be small. Indeed, governments would not need to subsidize bio-mass if it were an economically competitive fuel. But the production of biomass has potential for environmental damage by reducing biodiversity, and reliance on the use of biomass threatens energy security."

The report concludes, "Biomass has some significant uses to provide economic waste disposal, but it has little potential as a primary energy source. For example, the European Commission admits that achieving its target of 5.75% of its transport fuels by use of biomass will require substantial imports of biomass despite turning more than 14% of EU agriculture over to biomass production. The limits to biomass for primary energy supply are set by physical laws and, therefore, cannot be overcome... conversion of 10% of US agricultural production to biomass production would provide less than 0.1% of US energy needs... However, the production of biomass has potential for environmental damage by reducing biodiversity and reliance on the use of biomass threatens energy security. These problems are causing concern to environmentalists in Europe..."

Richard S Courtney is a Member of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) and acts as a technical advisor to several UK Members of Parliament. He is Chairman of the Southern Region of a Trade Union (BACM-TEAM) affiliated to the UK’s Trades Union Congress. Having been the contributing Technical Editor of CoalTrans International, he is now on the Editorial Board of Energy & Environment. His present work mostly consists of providing commissioned advice to national governments, although he has recently conducted research studies of energy interactions at sea surface. The Center for Science and Public Policy (CSPP) is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy organization. CSPP relies on scientific experts in many nations and the vast body of peer-reviewed literature to help lawmakers, policy makers, and the media distinguish between scientific findings that are agenda-driven and those that are based on accepted scientific methods and practices. CSPP operates as a policy center for the conservative organization Frontiers of Freedom.

Access the complete 18-page analysis (
click here). Access the CSPP website (click here). [*Energy]

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