Forests in the Fight Against Global Warming
- Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 6: Forests as a Source of Biofuels
For thousands of years wood has been a major energy source. But in developed countries fossil fuels have become dominant, with renewables making up only 3.9 percent of all fuels in terms of oil equivalents in 2007 (International Energy Agency, personal communication, 2008). In contrast, in many developing countries wood remains the predominant household fuel for cooking and heating. Of the renewables, wood is second only to hydropower in importance globally (see Table 6.1). One of the ways that biomass, provided by plants or forests, can contribute to tackling climate change is as a source of liquid fuel to replace fossil fuels used in transport. Before undertaking an investigation of what might be the specific future role for forests in providing renewable energy, it is necessary to examine in some depth the global trends in overall biofuel production, presently dominated by annual crops. Biofuels cost more than other forms of renewable energy but they are the only form that can address the challenges of the transport sector, including its almost complete reliance on oil and the fact that greenhouse reductions in this sector are difficult to obtain. Both the US and the EU have announced policies designed to greatly increase the contribution that biofuels20 make to the energy requirements of transport, summarized in Box 6.1. Biofuels require large subsidies to be competitive. Governmentsupported policies could lead to an increase in the share of biofuels in global transport from 1 percent to 6 percent in 2020 (World Bank, 2008a: 2). The...
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