When looking at biofuels, its often hard to see through the fog of controversy that surrounds it. As Jeremy has mentioned before, there are many people still sitting on the fence with this one. Until recently Richard Branson was one of them.
A recent article by Steve Dowling (BBC) highlighted Branson’s work with Boeing on the use of biofuels in his aircraft. Branson, the owner of Virgin Airlines, has hopped off the fence, taking biofuels as an alternative to the currently used refined kerosene. Is this really a step in the right direction?
Biofuels are a clean alternative to fossil fuels, however at what expense to the environment? The Air Transport Association stated in the Monthy Jet Fuel Cost and Consumption Report that the U.S alone used over 19 and a half billion gallons of jet fuel in 2006. For the United States at least, switching consumption of this scale to biofuels might not only be extremely expensive but may end up being more destructive than sticking with the original fossil fuels. In order to produce enough biofuels to sustain the world’s obsession with cheap air travel (guilty as charged) how much forest needs to be turned into cash crops? The sheer amount of biofuel needed to keep up with the current consumption rate would accompany the complete destruction of the rainforest in a not so distant future. With increased biofuels comes an increased demand on arable land. Therefore deforestation. In an attempt to prevent global warming by switching to biofuels, we could just speed up the whole process.
The use of biofuels is merely a way of replacing fossil fuels in order to continue our lives as normal. The way i see it. Its not a matter of “should we use biofuels or fossil fuels?”, its a matter of “Should we travel so much?”.
If cutting fossil fuel emissions is causing global warming – lets stop it.
If cutting down rain forests to grow fossil fuels is causing climate change (which lets face it. A replacement for oil, when it happens is likely to take place in less economically developed countries. Ones that will be bullied by the super powers) – lets stop it
We should stop wondering what side of the fence we are on and simply stay where we are. The answer is not black and white, one or the other. Its simply NO! Lets reduce travel. If we can’t continue traveling in a sustainable way, with bio or fossil fuels then lets reduce the amount we travel. If governments and airline companies can’t work out a sustainable alternative, then its up to the consumer.
The question is not “Do we use fossil fuels or biofuels?” its “Do we clear forests or departure lounges?”. Its up to us!