Media Release – How Biofuels are Damaging The Environment: The Unintended Consequences of Biofuel Subsidization

Press Release, Environment, Frontier Centre

Winnipeg, May 4, 2012:  The Frontier Centre released today a paper entitled The Green Plague: How Biofuels Are Damaging the Environment.  Authored by Frontier’s student intern Eric Merkley, the study examines some of the unintended consequences of large-scale biofuel production and, specifically, its impact on the natural environment.

Governments in many economically advanced countries heavily subsidize the production of biofuels. The justification of such subsidies is often that biofuels are a comparatively “green” source of energy. However, the evidence suggests that biofuels may in fact create significant environmental problems. Examples discussed in the paper include:

  • The production and use of biofuel may actually produce more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels, when factoring in direct and indirect land-use change and nitrous oxide emissions from the production process.
  • The agricultural intensification necessary to maintain corn-ethanol feedstock can contaminate water systems with excess nutrients from fertilizer run-off. This can harm marine ecosystems and harm local anglers.
  • Biofuel production requires the use or large amounts of water. The irrigation required to grow feedstock on marginal land as production expands can strain freshwater stocks.

 “The biofuel industry is thriving in North America due to generous government subsidies,” Merkley writes. Although these subsidies are intended to benefit the natural environment, Merkley argues that they may be having the opposite effect. “At the very least, the research referred to in this paper should give governments pause before they continue to use taxpayer money to fund their environmentally destructive biofuel pipe dreams.”

All energy production has an economic, social and environmental cost. Although biofuel production is widely seen as a “green” source of energy, the evidence presented in this paper suggests biofuel production can cause significant environmental damage.

The Green Plague: How Biofuels Are Damaging the Environment? can be downloaded HERE.