The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has dismissed claims by US scientists that biofuels are worse than petrol in terms of carbon emissions.
A study published by the University of Michigan Energy Institute found that the CO2 uptake by crops grown as feedstock have offset only 37% of the emissions produced by biofuel combustion over the past 10 years.
Researchers concluded that rising biofuel use, from 16 billion litres in 2005 to 55 billion litres in 2013, had caused a net increase in CO2 emissions.
“When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline,” research professor John DeCicco said.
“So the underpinnings of policies used to promote biofuels for reasons of climate have now been proven to be scientifically incorrect.”
This research, part-funded by the American Petroleum Institute, was picked up by some UK publications including the Daily Telegraph.
Clare Wenner, head of biofuels at the REA, dismissed the study and warned against applying the findings to the UK, where 57% of the bioethanol and biodiesel comes from waste materials, significantly more than the US.
“The analysis is based solely on crop production in the US, where crops are grown intensively and the agricultural supply chain is not generally motivated to improve carbon emissions.
“That is very different to the UK, where carbon accounting is now required of the supply chain. We do not use any biofuels made from palm oil and our domestic bioethanol industry produces high-protein animal feed as well as low-carbon bioethanol from low-grade wheat.
“It would be a mistake to simply extrapolate from this study to our own market where our sustainability rules are second to none.”
She added that the study did not appear to take account of lower carbon emissions when fossil fuel is displaced by bioenergy.
“It is a pity the study appears to have been funded by the American Petroleum Institute, which has a vested interest in retaining the use of fossil fuel in transport for as long as possible,” she said.