BIOFUELS based on ethanol, vegetable oil and other renewable sources are increasingly popular with Government and environmentalists as a way to reduce fossil fuel dependence and limit greenhouse gas emissions.
But they may not be as friendly as most of us have been led to believe.
So, before you persuade mum or dad to fill up the family urban assault vehicle with processed veggie bought cheap off your local chippie, read on.
It is research led by a biologist at the University of Washington, in the US, that shows that some of the most popular current biofuel stocks might have exactly the opposite impacts than intended.
The research warns that precise calculations are needed to determine the ecological footprints of large-scale cultivation of various crops used for biofuels.
It notes, for example, that because such large amounts of energy are required to grow corn and convert it to ethanol, the net energy gain of the resulting fuel is modest.
Using a crop typically grown to feed cattle would require much less energy to produce the fuel, and using algae would require even less.
This issue is becoming especially touchy for farmers who might, for the first time, be realising significant profits on their crops, but it is also a serious concern for motorists.
As if this isn’t problem enough, some plants are better than others for absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while others perhaps need more cultivation, which requires more fossil fuel for farm equipment. In addition, fertilisation, watering and harvesting all require energy.