Biofuels cause pollution - not so green

2013-01-06 22:28
Biofuel (Picture: <a href=\http://www.shutterstock.com\>Shutterstock</a> )

Biofuel (Picture: Shutterstock )

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Oslo - Green schemes to fight climate change by producing more bio-fuels could actually worsen a little-known type of air pollution and cause almost 1 400 premature deaths a year in Europe by 2020, a study showed on Sunday.

The report said trees grown to produce wood fuel - seen as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal - released a chemical into the air that, when mixed with other pollutants, could also reduce farmers' crop yields.

"Growing biofuels is thought to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said Nick Hewitt, who worked on the study with colleagues from England's Lancaster University.

"What we're saying is 'yes, that's great, but biofuels could also have a detrimental effect on air quality'," he added.

The report, in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked into the impact of a European Union scheme to slow climate change by producing more biofuels.

Hewitt told Reuters there would be a similar impact wherever biofuels were produced in large quantities in areas suffering air pollution, including the United States and China.

Poplar, willow or eucalyptus trees, all used as fast-growing sources of renewable wood fuel, emit high levels of the chemical isoprene as they grow, the study said. Isoprene forms toxic ozone when mixed with other air pollutants in sunlight.

"Large-scale production of biofuels in Europe would have small but significant effects on human mortality and crop yields," said Hewitt.

"As far as we know, no one has looked at the air quality of growing biofuel crops before," he added.

Ozone

The report estimated that ozone from wood-based energy to meet the European Union's 2020 goal would cause nearly 1 400 premature deaths a year, costing society $7.1bn.

The European plan would also would reduce the annual value of wheat and maize production by $1.5bn since ozone impairs crop growth, the study added.

Siting new biofuel plantations far away from polluted population centres would help limit ozone formation, the study suggested. Genetic engineering might be used to reduce isoprene emissions, it said.

Ozone can cause lung problems and is blamed for killing about 22 000 people a year in Europe. Overall air pollution, mainly from fossil fuels, causes about 500 000 premature deaths in Europe a year, according to the European Environment Agency.

Sunday's study did not compare the potential damage caused by biofuels to the impact on human health from producing coal, oil or natural gas as part of policies to slow global warming. "We're not in a position to make that comparison," Hewitt said.

He noted that the main reason to shift to biofuels was to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuels, that UN studies project will become ever more damaging this century.

The United Nations' World Health Organisation estimates global warming has caused more than 140 000 deaths annually worldwide since the 1970s.

The biggest impact was recorded in developing nations where the floods, droughts and other disasters blamed on climate change left millions suffering from diarrhoea, malnutrition, malaria and dengue fever.

Burning biofuels is viewed as neutral for climate change because plants soak up carbon when they grow and release it when they burn or rot. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, add carbon to the atmosphere from underground stores millions of years old.

Biofuels are often blamed for causing food price spikes by competing for cropland. Responding to such criticisms, the European Commission said last year it aimed to limit crop-based biofuels - such as from maize or sugar - to five percent of transport fuels.

Read more on:    energy  |  environment
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Sun energy rises over Karoo

2014-10-01 21:08
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
27 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Wine
 

You HAVE to see this MTB Tsunami Fip!

You might not know what a Tsunami Flip is, but just watching this will turn your eyes into saucers. Check out this first-ever MTB Tsunami Flip in contest here.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Bear Grylls’ top 10 things kids should do outdoors
Mountain unicycling – say WHAT?
Top tips to ensure you’re running right
Stand-up paddle boarding a great workout

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

20% off Afrikaans books, music and DVDs. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Hot gaming titles – available for pre-order!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition, Far Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 and more. Pre-order now!

Get a free eBook

Buy 3 eBooks and get the cheapest FREE. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Pushing too hard and doing too much may have left you feeling drained and overwhelmed. You may need time out to recharge and reset...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.