"Net energy is a (mostly) irrelevant, misleading and dangerous metric," says Professor Bruce Dale, editor-in-chief of Biofuels, Bioresources and Biorefining (Biofpr) in the latest issue of the journal published today.
Net energy is a metric by which some scientists attempt to assess the sustainability and ability of alternative fuels to displace fossil fuel but recent debate in Biofpr shows that scientists are undecided on its merits as a tool.
Instead, in a series of corresponding articles clearly stating the case for and against net energy, Professor Dale calls for a more holistic approach which takes into consideration issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum displacement and economic growth, particularly in the developing world. He is calling on the scientific community to come together to help establish, once and for all, parameters by which to calculate fuel efficiency by using not just one, but several metrics that can be used in conjunction to give a fuller picture.
The articles Net energy: still a (mostly) irrelevant, misleading and dangerous metric, Bruce E. Dale; Net energy and strategic decision making: response to Professor Dale, Franzi Poldy; and Response to Dr. Poldy's questions in this issue, Bruce E. Dale are the culmination of the ongoing heated exchange, which has already attracted a huge response, between those in favour and those against the use of 'net energy' as a metric.
Professor Dale says: "The election of the new USA president, Barack Obama, who is an open supporter of biofuels will put them very much on the agenda. We need to resolve this issue of appropriate metrics once and for all so we can concentrate on the real task at hand to deliver viable alternative fuels and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."
He adds: "Net energy is misleading because it does not give us the whole story of a fuel but instead asks us to make a judgement using a very small component
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