Biofuels can help solve climate change, especially with a carbon tax. We’re not yet optimizing biofuel production for both economic and environmental factors. The term “biofuels” has many meanings, but basically they are grown fuels (like corn ethanol) that we can use instead of fossil fuels (like petroleum). While biofuels can be any fuel produced from plant material, historically they have been produced from food crops such as corn and soy. But, new technologies are enabling biofuel production from non-edible gases, wood, and other plant waste material. The beauty of biofuels is that they suck carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow. When we burn them in our automobiles, we release carbon dioxide, but it is the same carbon that the plants absorbed while growing. Just on that basis, biofuels appear to be zero net emitters. But this view is too simplistic. It takes energy to grow biofuels; it takes fertilizer, tractors, transportation, and energy to convert the plants to liquid fuels. Don’t use good cropland for biofuels. Rather, use marginal croplands, with minimal water and fertilizer, to create plants that can be converted to biofuels. Our results suggest that biofuels can have a wide range of environmental outcomes depending on exactly where and how those crops are grown, but climate benefits can be increased at relatively low cost. This is another great example of clean energy technologies that will help us solve the climate problem while continuing our use of fuels that drive the economy. It’s a win-win situation.
Guardian 14th March 2018 read more »