Lowering Energy Consumption Better Than Biofuels for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, OECD Report Finds


photo by Piper Falk

According to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "Economic Assessment of Biofuel Support Policies", not only is public support of biofuels costly it has little impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions: All the tax incentives, blending targets and other public support policies in the EU, US, and Canada total $25 billion per year, but will ultimately result in less than a 1% reduction in emissions from transport by 2015.Biofuels' Emissions Benefits Often Overstated
Citing the study, Reuters reports that, "The OECD said that if Brazil's ethanol produced from sugar cane cuts greenhouse gas emissions by around 80%, biofuels from other feedstocks in the United States, the EU or Canada tend to have a far lower environmental benefit. Biodiesel from vegetable oil cuts greenhouse emissions by around 40-55% and ethanol from corn generally cuts them by less than 30%."

Not to mention the worst offender, biodiesel from palm oil, which according to some estimates actually increases greenhouse gas emissions compared to ordinary diesel by 800%—in addition to contributing to possible Orangutan extinction in the wild.

Lowering Energy Consumption Better Solution Than Biofuels
In its recommendations, the OECD says that governments should offer more support for second generation biofuel feedstocks that don't use food crops, but more importantly, policies designed to reduce overall energy consumption should receive more funding.

From the report's policy recommendations,

A priority focus [...] needs to be given to reducing energy consumption. This is especially important in the transport sector where the growth in energy use and related environmental problems is most pronounced. In particular, this includes the gradual move from highly energy intensive modes of transport to less intensive ones, and improvement in fuel efficiency in all transport sectors. Generally the costs of reducing GHG emissions by saving energy are lower than by switching to alternative energy sources, in particular biofuels.


Photo of electric tram in Brussels by Peter Van den Bossche

So, essentially, the OECD is recommending that government embrace a perrenial message here at TreeHugger: Energy efficiency is crucial for combatting climate change and for making renewable energy technologies most effective.

via :: OECD and :: Reuters
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Tags: Biodiesel | Biofuels | Ethanol | Fuel Efficiency | Transportation

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