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Boom in biofuels could backfire

Malcom Burgess, New Zealand Herald
The mad rush throughout the Americas to replace the petrochemical patriarchy with a biofuel behemoth is sending food prices through the roof worldwide.

And a study headed by a controversial Nobel Prize winner suggests that’s not the only thing that may heat up.

The boost in emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas – from increased use of nitrogen fertiliser on crops destined for biofuel production could negate the benefits of shifting energy sources, or even warm the Earth to a greater degree than current projections indicate, the study says.

According to the scientific paper, whose main author is Paul Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry: “The replacement of fossil fuels by biofuels may not bring the intended climate cooling due to the accompanying emissions of N2O.”

The study, published on the website of the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, claims the use of several agricultural crops for energy production could “readily lead to N2O emissions large enough to cause climate warming instead of cooling”.

The study, which crucially has yet to be peer reviewed and appear in the actual journal, concludes that “the relatively large emission of N2O exacerbates the already huge challenge of getting global warming under control”.

Despite Crutzen’s pedigree, he controversially suggested last year that global warming might be counteracted using giant guns or balloons to inject sulphur into the stratosphere, a hypothesis that has attracted high-profile criticism from the likes of British environmental writer George Monbiot.
(6 August 2007)

National Express quits biofuel experiment

Dan Malmo, The Guardian
One of Britain’s leading transport groups has cast doubt over the green credentials of biofuels after pulling out of a trial amid fears that it was doing more harm than good to the environment.

National Express has suspended a biodiesel trial at its UK bus operations after consulting green groups. Biofuel tests have been used by transport companies to highlight their environmental friendliness, with Virgin Trains and Virgin Atlantic among the most high-profile backers of the alternative energy source.
(6 August 2007)

Cruise line signs biodiesel contract

Seattle Times
Imperium Renewables said Friday it has a deal to provide Royal Caribbean Cruises with biodiesel.

The Seattle-based biodiesel maker, which is scheduled to inaugurate its Grays Harbor plant this month, will sell the cruise line 15 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007 and 18 million gallons annually for four years after that. The Miami-based cruise line has four vessels that call in Seattle.

“We believe this is the single-largest long-term biodiesel sales contract to an end user in the U.S.,” the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
(4 August 2007)