Although there have been a number of assessments on greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil production systems, estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from land use have all been based on the results of a limited number of scientific studies. A general consensus has emerged that emissions from peat degradation have not yet been adequately accounted for.
The results of the Leicester study are important because an increase in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with biodiesel from palm oil, even if expansion on peat only occurs indirectly, will negate any savings relative to the use of diesel derived from fossil fuel.
If these improved estimates are applied to recent International Food Policy Research Institute modelling of the European biofuel market , they imply that on average biofuels in Europe will be as carbon intensive as petrol , with all biodiesel from food crops worse than fossil diesel and the biggest impact being a 60% increase in the land use emissions resulting from palm oil biodiesel. Bioethanol or biodiesel from waste cooking oil, on the other hand, could still offer carbon savings.
This outcome has important implications for European Union policies on climate and renewable energy sources.
Dr Sue Page said: "It is important that the full greenhouse gas emissions 'cost' of biofuel production is made clear to the consumer, who may otherwise be mislead into thinking that all biofuels have a positive environmental impact. In addition to the high greenhouse gas emissions associated with oil palm plantations on tropical peatlands, these agro-systems have also been implicated in loss of primary rainforest and associated biodiversity, including rare and endangered species such as the orang-utan and Sumatran tiger.
"We are very excited by the outcomes of our research - our study has already been accepted and used by sev
|Contact: Dr. Susan Page|
University of Leicester