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27 May 2010

Biofuel use shows large climate benefit: study

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Ethanol and biogas use in Sweden shows a large climate benefit, resulting in between 65 to 140 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petrol and diesel, even when so-called direct and indirect soil effects are included, a new research study shows

The study from Lund University's Faculty of Engineering punctures the controversial argument against biofuels made from food crops, such as ethanol from grain, or biodiesel from rapeseed.

"It is pretty irrelevant to rank various sustainable biofuels, there is room for all fuels, and all are needed to produce alternatives to fossil fuels. The challenge today is to increase the amount of sustainable biofuels in themselves," Pål Börjesson, researcher in environmental and energy systems at the engineering faculty, in a statement.

The Lund study for the first time looks at the scope of Swedish biofuel use and has analyzed its environmental impact, both in relation to each other and as alternatives to fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel.

While initially seen as a major boon for the fight to control climate change, many have come to believe that growing these crops serves no net climate benefit. Arguments such as that the biofuels use up more resources during food production, and force land reclamation for food in other countries instead, have been shown by the new study to be false.

"According to our results, there is nothing to suggest that biofuels produced from Swedish-grown crops under present circumstances would lead to indirect soil effects, such as, for example, land reclamation in South America or Asia," he said.

The soil in developing countries is furthermore often assumed to be carbon-rich and thus a significant emitter of carbon dioxide, but the study shows no such link at current production levels.

(The Local)

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