Two new studies cast doubt on the ecological benefits of biofuels. Separate teams from Princeton University and the Nature Conservancy conducted the studies, which were published in the journal Science. Both groups found that biofuels exacerbate—rather than counteract— global warming.
”Most of the biofuel that people are using or planning to use would probably increase greenhouse gasses substantially,” said Timothy Searchinger, a research from Princeton University. “Previously there’s been an accounting error: land use change has been left out of prior analysis.”
The crux of the new research is that biofuel production cannot overlook the effects of growing, harvesting, and refining biofuels. When the entire process is considered, biofuels are not nearly as attractive from an environmental perspective. Searchinger found that replacing fossil fuels with corn-based ethanol would double greenhouse gas emissions for the next 30 years. Greenhouse gas emissions are problematic, regardless if rainforest or scrubland is used to grow the fuel.
These studies add to a growing body of research which question the belief that biofuels offer great promise as a “green” fuel for transportation. In the wake of the publication, a group of 10 eminent environmental scientists sent a letter to President Bush, urging a reform of national biofuels policy.