Biofuels' Environmental Impacst Not All Positive
With the rhetoric coming from so many sources about how wonderful many examples of 'green technology' are it can be easy to neglect to step back and examine these technologies as a whole. Fortunately some researchers do not forget this and will perform extensive studies to understand more than just the positive impacts of something. Those at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) have recently done a detailed study of the impact of biofuels on the environment and have made some important observations.
Biofuels are combustion fuels which are often produced from some agriculture product, such as ethanol from corn. The belief (which is actually in question) is that because the agricultural product has to pull CO2 from the air to grow, the CO2 emitted when the fuel is burned is offset. The researchers looked beyond gas emissions though to consider other ways growing these fuels could damage the environment. For example, more land will have to be farmed to produce these fuels, which may require clearing out forests and the use of pesticides and fertilizers. The environmental damage of biofuels may not be in the air, but in the soil, where it is no less harmful.
Really what should be taken away from this research is that biofuels are not a silver bullet by any stretch, but through careful planning the negative impacts of their use can be mitigated.