Biofuels have increasingly been seen as an environmentally sustainable alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Though the term biofuels covers a wide range of fuels of solid, liquid and gas states, it is the liquid bio-ethanol and bio-diesel fuels that are seen as potentially most successful . The IEA suggest that the Biofuels have the potential to supply more than 25% of total transportation fuels.
A number of multi-national companies have been investing heavily in the development technologies and production of biofuels. The demand to produce higher quantities of biofuels has largely been driven by state and international legislation and environmental campaigners. However, there debates surrounding the sustainability of biofuels and their effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions.
Many biofuels are produced from crops grown specifically for the production of biofuels. A commonly used variety is Jatropha Curcas which is an inedible crop that produce oil rich seeds ideal for the production of bio-ethanol. The use of such crops is said to drive up world food prices by competing for agricultural production space with other food crops. Some attribute the recent rises in world food prices to an increase in the use of these crops. However, producers using the Jatropha Curcas variety contest that the plant is actually suited to being grown on marginal and arid lands and therefore will not come into competition with food crops. Other challenges to the use of biofuels include the suggestion that mass production of such crops have a negative impact on biodiversity and that the alien varieties being planted are not conducive to soil conservation and environmental sustainability in local areas.
In order to address some of these concerns there are a number of international agreements and discussions in place to combat the potential for negative impacts of the biofuel industry. One in particular is the Global Bioenergy Partnership started by the G8 along with a number emerging economies and international organisations. This is a voluntary agreement that stipulates guidelines on the ethical production of biofuels to ensure long term environmental sustainability with an ever expanding industry.
With many economies looking to diversify their fuel base to increase energy security, biofuels look certain to be a major part of the adaption of world energy to non-fossil fuel sources. Their potential importance makes them key talking points in future for international conferences, meetings and summits on climate change.
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