In the field of the environment things often fall together in unexpected ways. I have blogged previously on the concerns of biofuels. Last week the World Land Trust in an article in Science magazine, point out that we can save more carbon emmissions by not cutting down forests in order to plant crops for biofuels, then the biofuels themselves would save.
Worldwatch, in response to the publicity of the Science article, then came out with a very good statement about biofuels, which I think hit the nail on the head. It makes an important distinction between first generation biofuels -- where crops are grown specifically for biofuel production, and second generation biofuels -- those which use waste products to produce the biofuels. Whereas first generation biofuels create problems, second generation biofuels are acceptable and a good use of a waste product.
The Worldwatch comment on sustainability is
A sustainable future depends on a diversified energy supply—one that takes advantage first of savings from energy efficiency, and then relies on a range of renewable energy sources, including wind energy, solar power, and fuels derived from biomass. (emphasis added)
That is exactly my own view.
Their last paragraph is also very to the point.
So, nothing is simple, but nothing is impossible either. Biofuels can do harm—but they can do a lot of good too. When evaluating them, as when evaluating any technologies, it is imperative that we take the time to consider the full range of factors to assess whether they are really sustainable or not.