And last fall, the National Acadamies – consisting of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council – reported that U.S. policy incentivizing biofuels production may be an ineffective in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, and that it could have mixed economic and environmental effects. The environmental impacts of bio-based fuels are highly dependent on site-specific factors, such as the types of feedstocks and management practices for land and water use. While biofuels production has been shown to have both positive and negative effects on water quality, soil, and biodiversity; air-quality modeling suggests that the production and use of ethanol is likely to increase air pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone and sulfur oxides.
This new research could be yet another blow against against plant-based fuels, UC Davis suggests.
“The study’s findings have potential implications for biofuel incentives based on greenhouse gas emissions,” says the UC Davis statement. “For instance, if the United States decides to incentivize corn-based ethanol, less profitable crops, such as soybeans, may shift to other countries. And those countries might clear more forests to make way for the new crops. Where those countries are located and how the wood from those forests is used would affect how much carbon would be released into the atmosphere.”