Kline et al: In Defense of Biofuels, Done Right | 2009

In 2009, Kline et al. published an article going over some of the misconceptions surrounding biofuels, most of which unfortunately still exist today. Kline et al. state that many of the dominant criticisms lack nuance or are simply inaccurate. When biomass value chains are managed responsibly with consideration for context-specific requirements, it can bring a range of socio-economic as well as environmental benefits.

A widespread critique of biofuels is that it would lead to land-use change and cause deforestation. According to the authors, this argument assumes that agricultural land for expansion is not available without new deforestation - which disregards opportunities for yield improvements, intercropping and making use of marginal lands. The argument also assumes that land is 'suddenly' cleared and converted into agricultural land for biofuel production as a predominantly market-driven choice. This assumption disregards practices of land-clearing for other reasons taking place in the global South, which are often complex interactions between cultural, technological, economic and political factors. Deforestation is part of longer-term process of land degradation that happens in waves and is heavily influenced by displacement of disenfranchised groups. Kline et al. argue that providing an incentive to grow crops for biofuel production can reduce forest burning and clearing practices that are often driven by extreme poverty and a lack of access to alternative markets.

The authors specifically highlight the potentials for perennial biofuel crops to reduce land-clearing pressures by providing improved and diversified rural incomes, plus increasing crop yields. With the right policy framework and equitable involvement of local stakeholders, biofuel production can help to stabilise land cover, enhance soil carbon sequestration, support biodiversity, and improve water and soil quality.

Read the full article on the right-hand side.