Those in favor of bioenergy claim that growing plants in order to produce biofuel absorbs sufficient amounts of CO2 to counteract the carbon emissions that result from refining and combusting the fuel.
However, two scientists from the University of Edinburgh argue that the development of the bioenergy industry does not necessarily lead to reducing the total amount of pollution, particularly under the present day’s norms for producing biofuel.
As far as they are concerned, there is no justifiable reason to completely take the amount of CO2 emitted by cars or other vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel out of the equation, as only by growing additional plants can the bioenergy industry truly fight back global warming.
Their argument is as follows: although the plants grown for biofuel really do absorb considerable amount of CO2, using fertilizers in order to grow these apparently green-oriented crops lead to nitrogen emissions.
According to sciencedaily.com, professor Keith Smith, one of the researchers who looked into this matter, explains that “Emissions of N2O from the soil make a large contribution to the global warming associated with crop production because each kilogram of N2O emitted to the atmosphere has about the same effect as 300kg (around 660 pounds) of CO2”.
Therefore, even if the said crops somewhat aid the environment during their growth, the overall levels of pollution are by no means reduced. In fact, they might even increase.
Possible solutions to this problem are either growing plants, which will be further used to make biofuel, in areas where no fertilizers are present in the soil, or simply turning towards only using waste material that already began its natural process of decomposing.
In professor Smith's own words, “The best opportunity to make beneficial biofuels is to use waste material or to focus on relatively wet but highly degraded land."
Although we believe that letting go of fossil fuels in favor of bioenergy is something our society must work towards achieving, we also think that efforts must be made to make sure that we are not doing wrong whilst trying to do good.