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Biofuels Could Cut Transport Emissions – But Food May Be at Risk
by Maina Waruru (Thomson Reuters Foundation) Growing use of electric vehicles around the world is helping lower climate changing emissions, but some means of transport will be hard to electrify, particularly air travel and shipping, energy experts say.
To “decarbonise” those, the world will need to rapidly develop and bring to market biofuels – while trying to ensure they don’t crowd out food production, say the authors of a report
by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
With “the right selection of the right raw material” about 12 percent of transport fuel could come from renewable sources by 2030, said Francisco Boshell, a technology analyst at IRENA and one of the report’s authors.
The “right” materials might include forest waste such as sawdust, fast-growing trees, agricultural residue, algae and “high-energy” crops, such as grasses grown on degraded parcels of land around the world, Boshell said.
“Biofuels have a vital role to play in the global transition to sustainable, renewable energy and, together with electric vehicles and the increase of renewables in the power mix, they can help us move away from petroleum use in passenger transport,” the report noted.
Care however needs to be taken to ensure that biofuel expansion doesn’t result in farmland being turned from food production to biofuel production, Boshell said.
“The pace of production and investment will have to increase exponentially, and projects develop further afield, if advanced liquid biofuels are to fulfill their practical and economic potential for displacing fossil fuels,” they said.
But shipping, aviation, mass transport systems and long haul transport – all significant contributors to global emissions – may need to rely on biofuels in order to meet carbon-cutting targets, she (Rachel Kyte, chief executive of Sustainable Energy for All) said.
“The long-term future to decarbonising the transport sector lies in use of biofuels that have twice the efficiency of ordinary fuels,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. READ MORE