A new study on bioethanol has revealed that first-generation biofuels are “just as sustainable” as second-generation biofuels and that both show significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and promote climate change mitigation.
Conducting a quantitative and qualitative sustainability assessment of biofuels against the background of the European Union’s (EU's) REDII negotiations, research and consulting firm Nova-Institute has indicated that it would be counterproductive to further lower the share of first-generation fuels in the EU’s energy mix.
The study, which will be presented and discussed in Brussels on September 26, evaluated 12 main criteria based on the most current standards and certification systems of bio-based fuels and materials, including a range of environmental, social and economic aspects.
“All feedstocks realise substantial reductions of GHG. While second-generation fuels perform better in this regard, this effect is strongly relativised when offset against the abatement costs,” the company wrote in the report, pointing out that reducing GHG emissions through second-generation biofuels was “a rather expensive way” to mitigate climate change.
“On the way to a climate-friendly Europe, biofuels made from any kind of feedstock offer advantages in terms of GHG emission reductions and should indiscriminately be part of a viable transitional strategy towards low-emission mobility, as long as they adhere to sustainability criteria,” it stated.
Meanwhile, the report also indicated that, when it comes to the often-criticised negative impact on food security of first-generation biofuels, the evidence pointed to a different direction, with the authors recommending the maintenance of the existing 7% for food-crop-based fuels and not lowering the share of first-generation fuels further in the REDII.
The report analyses the strength and weaknesses of all biomass feedstocks for bioethanol production by criteria such as GHG footprint, GHG abatement costs, land-use efficiency, food security, protein-rich co-products, employment, rural development, livelihood of farmers and foresters, infrastructure, social impacts, biodiversity and air and soil quality, among others.