Home International Policies required to prevent biofuel output from causing ecological disaster

Policies required to prevent biofuel output from causing ecological disaster


Washington : Early preventive policies regarding biofuels’ output would go a long way in minimising its unintentional side effects like fertiliser and pesticide pollution, soil erosion, fouling of waterways and species loss, according to an international group of researchers.

This is one of the first times such a large and diverse group of world’s leading scientists and experts have spoken with one voice on the issue. The 23 co-authors of the study, some of the world’s top ecologists, agronomists, conservation biologists and economists – encompass diverse backgrounds and professional experiences.

Kathleen Weathers, an ecosystem scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and a co-author of the study said that “society is in a race to find renewable sources of carbon-neutral energy. Cellulose-based biofuels hold promise, but we need to proceed cautiously and with an eye toward minimising long-term ecological impacts.”

Grain-based ethanol has already served as a lesson in the perils of embracing energy solutions before their environmental effects are understood, according to a Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies press release.

Most of the commercial ethanol produced in US is made from corn. When large parts of the farmland are converted to such resource-intensive grain crops, as is the current model, the scientific consensus is that they impose heavy ecological costs.

Moving forward, if cellulosic ethanol is to emerge as a feasible source of renewable energy, a vast amount of land will need to be used for its production. This land conversion – estimated to be as large as the amount of land in row-crops today – will change the face of the global landscape.

Production standards and incentive programs could help minimise negative impacts and, in many cases, help farmers choose crops that provide valuable ecosystem services.

The paper appeared in the Oct 3 issue of Science.