Poster from new Greenpeace UK campaign about Biofuels
We have been dumping on biofuels here at TreeHugger pretty consistently, and taken some criticism; The new UN report calls it a mixed bag. It points out many positive things about biofuels as a way to " provide clean energy services to millions of people who currently lack them," it concludes, "while generating income and creating jobs in poorer areas of the world." It notes that it could help eliminate the "kitchen killer" — smoke inhalation from cooking with fuelwood or traditional biomass, which is responsible for more fatalities each year than malaria.
However it points out that "in general, crops that require high fossil energy inputs (such as conventional fertilizer) and valuable (farm) land, and that have relatively low energy yields per hectare, should be avoided." IE: corn to ethanol is dumb.
Even "sustainably"-produced energy crops could have negative impacts if they replaced primary forests, "resulting in large releases of carbon from the soil and forest biomass that negate any benefits from biofuels for decades," the report said.
To minimize greenhouse gas emissions associated with bioenergy production, policy makers needed to safeguard virgin grasslands, primary forests and other lands with high nature value, IE: clearing the rainforest to grow palm oil is dumb.
On food security:
the report said that the availability of adequate food supplies could be threatened by biofuel production as land, water and other resources were diverted from food production. Similarly, food access could be compromised by higher basic food prices resulting from increased bioenergy feedstock demand, thus driving the poor and food insecure into even greater poverty.
IE: growing corn for fuel at the expense of our food is dumb.