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Criteria necessary to assess bioenergy production technologies & which Biofuels fulfil this criteria (Greenpeace) [#72]
Greenpeace believes that bioenergy is part of the solution to combat climate change. However, bioenergy is not a silver bullet for unsustainable energy usage and must be used in conjunction with other measures, both political and social, to reduce energy consumption and increase energy use efficiency.

Greenpeace supports the use of biomass produced in a sustainable way for decentralized stationary heat and electricity generators (e.g. cogeneration and biogas). Greenpeace believes that some biofuels derived from crops can make a contribution to reducing GHG emissions from transport, but these are limited to those with considerable positive energy and carbon balance (e.g. sugarcane ethanol); that are grown within the framework of sustainable agriculture; that do not cause, either directly or indirectly, destruction of intact ecosystems and that do not hinder the ability of any nation, in particular developing nations, to achieve food security and sovereignty.

Greenpeace encourages the development of “second generation” technologies to produce biofuels (i.e. cellulosic ethanol) from sustainable agricultural and forestry wastes. The use of such wastes would avoid destruction of diverse or valuable ecosystems, and would not provoke land-use conflicts.

Production and use of bioenergy should not widen social inequities, especially between developing and developed countries. Local needs should take priority over global trade. Trade in bioenergy must not result in negative social and environmental impacts, nor undermine food security and sovereignty.

Criteria for assessing bioenergy production technologies

Following are criteria, applicable globally, upon which individual bioenergy projects can be assessed. Bioenergy production technologies must be analysed from a complete life cycle perspective to ensure that:

1. bioenergy is used in conjunction with other measures to reduce GHG emissions, including those to increase energy use efficiency and reduce energy consumption. They should be used to complement and balance the energy supply in a clean renewable energy system, based on solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal, wave and tidal power.

2. the energy balance of any bioenergy project is considerably positive (i.e. the end product generates considerably more energy than it required for its production). At present, it is not possible to put a number on what energy savings would be “considerable”, but the energy saving must be readily demonstrable.

3. bioenergy maximises the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in a way that it is effective in combating climate change.

4. biomass from natural ecosystems is sustainably harvested. Biomass (e.g. wood) from natural ecosystems (e.g. forests) must be harvested sustainably.

5. social conflicts are avoided, in particular, those caused by trade. Production and use of bioenergy should not widen social inequities, especially between developing and developed countries. Local needs should take priority over global trade. Trade in bioenergy must not result in negative social and environmental impacts, nor undermine food security or sovereignty.

6. crops and plantations for bioenergy are produced within the framework of sustainable agriculture. Any crops or plantations grown either for stationary biomass applications or for processing into biofuels must be produced within the framework of sustainable agriculture in order to avoid negative environmental and social impacts.

Greenpeace’s sustainable agriculture framework requires that cultivation of bioenergy crops:

• does not cause conversion of intact ecosystems.
Cultivation of bioenergy crops must not cause direct or indirect destruction of intact, diverse and/or valuable ecosystems (e.g. forests that are carbon stores and have high biodiversity).
Bioenergy production systems should maximize agro-systems that promote biodiversity and minimize competition with food crops. Instead on concentrating bioenergy production from monocultures of food crops, bioenergy could be produced from integrated agro-systems, e.g. growing trees for biomass, but also wind protection/erosion control.

• does not hinder food security or sovereignty.
Bioenergy crops have land use implications. Available agricultural land is a finite resource and demand for bioenergy crops would inevitably lead to increased competition for land between food and non-food uses. Bioenergy crops should not compete with food crops in areas or countries where agriculture land is needed to ensure food security. Nor should biomass undermine food sovereignty. This competition is easier to balance if production is primarily for domestic (local or national) consumption.

• bioenergy technologies do not involve releases of GE organisms to the environment
Greenpeace opposes the deliberate environmental release of any genetically engineered (GE) organism, regardless of its intended use. The claim that GE plants for bioenergy would increase yields and make bioenergy production and use more efficient does not justify the deliberate releases of GE crops to the environment. The use of enzymes from GE bacteria or fungi in secure, contained facilities to digest cellulose or lignin (for ethanol production as biofuel) does not entail a deliberate release to the environment. However, there are serious concerns regarding the presence of any GE micro-organisms in by-products and waste products from biofuel production (e.g. fermentation processes for cellulosic ethanol), and how these would be disposed of without releases of GE organisms to the environment.

• minimises use of agrochemicals
Sustainable agriculture minimises the use of agrochemicals (fertiliser, pesticides, and herbicides) because they are harmful for humans and the environment. Additionally, synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers contribute to climate change by the emission of the GHG N2O.

• does not use invasive species
The expansion and development of new bioenergy crops should not introduce any invasive species. Where there is doubt, the precautionary principle should be used.

• promotes conservation of water and soil fertility
The production of biofuel crops should maintain soil fertility; avoid soil erosion; promote conservation of water resources and have minimal impacts on water quality, nutrient and mineral balances.

Which biofuels fulfil Greenpeace's criteria?

Corn-based and other grain ethanol cannot generally produce significant quantities of fuel per area of land and therefore fail our criteria for an acceptable biofuel. In the U.S., where most corn-ethanol is produced, the cultivation is not within the framework of sustainable agriculture.

Biodiesel produced from palm oil and soy is unacceptable when they are closely linked to deforestation, as they currently are in the Amazon and SE Asia.

Sugar cane ethanol has resulted in GHG savings in Brazil but has also entailed considerable negative environmental and social impacts. Sugar cane (or any other biomass crop with a significant positive energy balance and reduction in GHG) would have to be produced within the framework of sustainable agriculture avoiding social conflict to fulfil our criteria.

The efficient production of ethanol from sustainable agriculture and forestry wastes (“cellulosic” ethanol) has potential to provide biofuels without the land-use implications associated with ethanol produced from grain crops. Greenpeace encourages the development of such “second generation” technologies.

Reminder: bioenergy must always be used in conjunction with other measures to mitigate climate change including those to increase energy use efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

Incineration of municipal waste is not an acceptable fuel source

Greenpeace opposes the incineration of municipal wastes to produce energy. Currently, the calorific value of municipal waste is largely supplied by plastics (non-renewable fossil resources) or to a lesser extent paper and wood, which can all readily be recycled. In addition, municipal solid waste incinerators emit persistent, toxic and bio-accumulative chemicals, such as the chlorinated dioxins, to atmosphere during normal operation.

Incinerators generate large quantities of bottom ash and fly ash. Fly ash in particular can be highly contaminated and must be managed as a hazardous waste. Municipal waste incineration cannot, therefore, be considered as the basis of a sustainable waste management strategy, or as a clean renewable energy source.
posted on 2007-02-22 05:40 UTC by Ms. Nathalie Rey
 

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme