How Organic are Agrofuels? - Download
Energy produced from biomass, commonly referred to as bioenergy or biofuel1 , has been actively used and researched for the past few decades. Recently biofuels have gained a new level of political saliency. While in the last two decades most biomass research attention concentrated on solid biomass for electricity production or cogeneration2, recent attention has focused almost exclusively on the production of biomass-based transport fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Crude oil prices have risen considerably, making alternative fuels more competitive than ever before. International concern over climate change is pressuring governments to adopt renewable energy targets; however, these new energy sources may not come without negative consequences to global food production.
In this paper the authors have consciously used the term agrofuels, as opposed to biofuels, for three reasons. First, to avoid confusion with organic agriculture products, because in many languages the prefix “bio” is used to signify organic3, and second, to limit the scope of the paper to address mainly energy systems derived from agricultural crops and crop residues, rather than wood product and forestry-based systems (although many of the same ecological principles can be applied to forest plantations). Finally, while high hopes are placed on the fact that woody and grassy non-food crops can be highly efficient the term agrofuels more accurately reflects the current use of corn, sugarcane, soybeans, and vegetable oils. The term agrofuels more accurately describes the use of food crops for fuel production, and the food security and socio-environmental risks associated with this trend.