Biodiesel won't drive down global warming

April 23, 2007

EU legislation to promote the uptake of biodiesel will not make any difference to global warming, and could potentially result in greater emissions of greenhouse gases than from conventional petroleum derived diesel. This is the conclusion of a new study reported today in Chemistry & Industry.

Analysts at SRI Consulting compared the emissions of greenhouse gases by the two fuels across their overall life cycles from production to combustion in cars.

The results show that biodiesel derived from rapeseed grown on dedicated farmland emits nearly the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions (defined as CO2 equivalents) per km driven as does conventional diesel.

However, if the land used to grow rapeseed was instead used to grow trees, petroleum diesel would emit only a third of the CO2 equivalent emissions as biodiesel.

Petroleum diesel emits 85% of its greenhouse gases at the final stage, when burnt in the engine. By contrast, two-thirds of the emissions produced by rapeseed derived biodiesel (RME) occur during farming of the crop, when cropland emits nitrous oxide (N2O), otherwise known as laughing gas, that is 200-300x as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2.

The results of this analysis should have big implications for policymakers. The 2003 EU Biofuels Directive aims to increase the levels of biofuels to 5.75% of all transport fuels by 2010, up from roughly 2% currently. This will be further increased to a 10% share in 2010, the Commission announced in January this year.

Transportation currently accounts for more than a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the EU. Rapeseed-derived biodiesel is the major renewables-derived biofuel used across Europe and, as well as helping to improve energy security, is expected to play an important role in helping to meet the EU's Kyoto commitment to reduce levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2012 relative to 1990 levels, and by 20% by 2020.

Source: Society of Chemical Industry

Explore further: Biodiesel can cut greenhouse gas emissions

Related Stories

Biodiesel can cut greenhouse gas emissions

July 19, 2012

Researchers in Spain have discovered that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced through the use of biodiesel. The group from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in Spain investigated the benefits of using biodiesel ...

A tool to improve the sustainability of the transport sector

March 27, 2015

Transport is responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, so the European Commission has developed various strategies and directives designed to reduce dependence on oil, and the transport gas emissions ...

Recommended for you

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.