Study suggests 'green' biofuels are more environmentally harmful than fossil fuels

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: biofuels, fossil fuels, health news

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(NaturalNews) New research comparing the environmental effects of "green" biofuel to those brought about by traditional fossil fuel has revealed some shocking findings. Rather than reduce the overall carbon load and protect the environment as previously believed, biofuel derived from palm oil may actually be more environmentally harmful than fossil fuel.

Upon conducting a comprehensive review of emissions created by oil palm plantations, a team from the University of Leicester (UL) in the UK found that much of the existing data used to back current biofuel policies is incorrect. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from oil palm plantations are more than 50 percent higher than most estimates which, when considered along with pollution generated by the burning of biofuel, has more of a detrimental environmental impact than the burning of fossil fuel.

Palm oil represents a major source of oil used in food production around the world. Palm oil is a rich source of vitamin E, and is far healthier than other food oil alternatives like soy and canola (http://www.naturalnews.com/028941_tocotrieno...). But increased demand for it as a biofuel has resulted in the untold destruction of the rainforest throughout southeast Asia to make way for massive oil palm plantations.

"[T]his research shows that estimates of emissions have been drawn from a very limited number of scientific studies, most of which have underestimated the actual scale of emissions from palm oil," said Ross Morrison from UL's Department of Geography. "This result shows that biofuel causes significant expansion of palm on tropical peat and actually increases emissions relative to petroleum fuels. When produced in this way, biofuel does not represent a sustainable fuel source."

Back in 2010, an EU report revealed that the burning of biofuel releases as much as 400 percent more CO2 than the burning of fossil fuels. And like the UL palm oil study, the EU study found that the mass conversion of a pristine rainforest into biofuel crop fields is playing a major role in the destruction of biodiversity worldwide (http://www.naturalnews.com/029421_biofuels_C...).

"We can't get to a result, no matter how heroically we make assumptions where it will actually generate greenhouse-gas benefits," said Tim Searchinger, author of a 2008 study published in the journal Science, about similar efforts to grow corn for ethanol production (http://www.naturalnews.com/023885_biofuels_b...).

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