Jatropha curcas photo by Dinesh Valke
One teething problem in the burgeoning biofuel industry is the issue of sustainability: Some biofuels actually increase greenhouse gas emissions while being claimed to prevent them; others add to food price inflation pressures; in some parts of the world, the labor conditions of biofuel crop farm workers have been called into question.
In one of an increasing number of efforts to codify what it means to make a sustainable biofuel, the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance has released a draft of its "Principles and Baseline Practices for Sustainability".
There are a number of criteria which are fleshed out in the document, but here are some of the more wordy/evolved ones:Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Sustainable biodiesel shall result in significantly lower GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels when analyzed via a lifecycle assessment. Fossil energy used in growing, transporting and processing biodiesel must be considered. Converting land from wilderness or grasslands to plant biodiesel feedstock crops also releases GHG and is not sustainable.
Sustainable biodiesel production shall improve energy and resource conservation. Wasteful use of fossil fuels should not be replaced with wasteful use of biodiesel. Instead, significant reductions in total consumption, together with increased conservation, shall be a priority.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Sustainable biodiesel should be derived from non-GMO feedstock. In cases where that is not possible, the use of GMOs for production of biodiesel should be made transparent, so that producers and consumers can make informed decisions.
Communities and Workers
Family and small holder farmers should not be displaced to grow or harvest biodiesel feedstock. Farmers should receive fair compensation for the biodiesel feedstock they produce. The health and safety of workers and communities should be protected. In addition, fair/livable wages for agricultural workers and workers at biodiesel production facilities should be ensured.
Martin Roscheisen of Nanosolar may say that "Biofuels don't cut it", and add that electric cars are about four times as energy efficient as fuel-based cars, but that is far from a universally held viewpoint.
Documents like the one produced by the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance are a step in the right direction towards ensuring that biofuels do more good than harm, both environmentally and socially.
:: Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance
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