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Biofuels not the answer warns university study

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A study by researchers at the University of Leeds and the World Land Trust warns growing biofuel crops could be more harmful to the environment than the conventional fuels they replace.

Large areas of land in the developing world are being converted to grow crops such as sugar can and palm oil in a move towards biofuels, widely thought to produce less carbon dioxide than conventional transport fuels.
Researchers at the University of Leeds and the World Land Trust have found up to nine times as much carbon dioxide will be emitted using biofuels compared to conventional petrol and diesel.

The study warns forests must not be cleared to make way for biofuel crops. Clearing forests produces an immediate release of carbon gases into the atmosphere, accompanied by a loss of habitats, wildlife and livelihoods, the researchers said.

Britain is committed to substituting 10% of its transport fuel with biofuels under Europe-wide plans to slash carbon emissions by 2020. Around 40% of Europe's agricultural land would be needed to grow biofuel crops to meet the 10% substitution target. That demand on arable land cannot be met in the EU or the US, say the scientists, so is likely to shift the burden on land in developing countries.

Study co-author Dominick Spracklen, of the School of Earth and the Environment at the University of Leeds, believes conserving existing forests and savannahs and restoring forests and grasslands is a better way to help save the planet: “There is a big push in the EU and US to promote biofuels as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Although biofuels may look a good idea in places like Europe, they have a perverse effect when you consider the rest of the world.”

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