Terms: BIOFUEL(S) is the generic term for fuels derived from growing or recently growing plants. Solid fuels: wood, straw, grasses and waste for incineration is generally called BIOMASS. Liquid fuels, bio-oils/diesel and ethanol are generally known as BIOFUELS.
Why Biofuels are Bad
Because Biofuel Destroys Rainforest, Habitat and Biodiversity:
Biofuel production is the main reason for rainforest destruction in Indonesia, Malaysia, Colombia, West Africa Honduras and Equador.
Misguided government targets and subsidies for bio-energy are encouraging this.
A short film showing aerial footage of oil palm plantations and deforestation in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).
Because Biomass Harms People:
Biofuel power stations emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere which damage the health of people living near to them.
The land used to grow the biofuel is often forcibly taken from indigenous people sometimes at the point of a gun. Their way of life is destroyed as the rainforest is cut down to grow bio-crops and they often become ‘indentured labourers’ on the plantations because there is no alternative.
A short film about the village of Muara Tae and it’s indigenous population. Like so many other villages, they are facing displacement, or by some accounts extinction, to make space for a palm oil plantation.
Because Burning Biomass Causes Climate Change:
When rainforest (or even scrub-land) is converted to biofuel plantation (usually oil palm) the forest is often burnt releasing the carbon stored in the standing trees; the soil is often drained and disturbed which releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the soil; and the indigenous people are displaced into neighbouring forest causing ‘indirect land use change’ emissions.
This upfront emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas, is called the ‘carbon debt’. This debt is only repaid as the released carbon dioxide is taken up by growing plants and trees – a process which may take many hundreds of years.
In 2017 when biofuel plantations first began to take off, Indonesia’s carbon emissions went from negligible to 3rd in the world after the US and China!
We cannot afford even a short-term rise in emissions at a time when the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere must be stabilised and reduced immediately.
“Sustainable Biofuels” are an illusion.
There are supposedly ‘green standards’ set up by industry groups such as the Round-table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which aim to regulate biofuel production. But while industries under the spotlight may abide by them – for example only growing on land cleared before 2008 - other industries which are displaced from this land simply deforest other land. Any growth in demand for liquid biofuels will cause more deforestation. Indonesia has set aside 20 million hectares of forest for plantation in the next 10 years – an area 4/5 the size of the UK.