Swedish Biofuels Benefit Climate, Claim Researchers

Lund University Logo The much controversial use of biofuels produced by food crops like ethanol from cereals or biodiesel from rapeseed seems to have taken a unique turn. Investigators from the Lund University claim that Swedish biofuels produce between 65 and 140 percent less greenhouse gas emissions as compared to petrol and diesel. The results were approved even after considering direct and indirect land use changes.

It was once argued that Swedish biofuels are not beneficial to the climate as they crowd food production and force new land clearance for cultivation of food in other countries instead. It is assumed that the land in these countries is rich in carbon so it releases a lot of carbon dioxide. But this argument apparently lacks evidence of such a connection with the current production levels. The scientists examined various types of biogas, ethanol and biodiesel. It was noted that biogas from manure produces outcomes 140 percent better than petrol and diesel. So it can be concluded that biogas is more than climate neutral. Its alternative displayed worst results and performed twice as well as the EU directive. According to the EU directive, biofuels should decline greenhouse gas emissions by at least 35 percent compared with fossil fuels.

Pal Borjesson, researcher in Environment and Energy Systems at Lund University, who is responsible for the report, remarked, “We have calculated as fairly as possible and based on as similar conditions as possible. Our results do not indicate that biofuels produced from crops grown in Sweden currently lead to indirect land use changes, e.g. land clearance in South America or Asia. Despite this, a number of economists have claimed that it could take 50 years for biofuels to repay their impact on the climate, specifically as a result of indirect land use changes.”

Experts mention that each and every type of biofuel has different limitations in production volumes. For preventing negative effects, it’s crucial that accurate suppression of biofuel production is carried out. Fuels like biogas from sugar beet, ley crops, maize and waste products in the form of household waste, industrial waste and manure, biodiesel from rapeseed, ethanol from wheat and sugar beet and ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane were investigated by the scientists. Also co-production of biogas and ethanol from wheat were analyzed during the research.

While conducting the investigations not only greenhouse gases, but also environmental effects like eutrophication, acidification, photochemical ozone, emissions of particles and energy balance was considered. Along with emissions from the use of biofuels in light and heavy vehicles, direct and indirect land use changes were also assessed by the researchers. It was claimed that with development of alternatives to fossil fuels the quantity of sustainable biofuels can be increased.

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