World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Biofuels: the Once and Future Energy Source?

Biofuels such as wood and straw are the energy sources of our remote ancestors; will they become a primary fuel for our progeny? And will they be an environmental boon, limiting carbon emissions, or will they accelerate the crash of already threatened ecosystems?

The new Issue Brief on biofuels published today by the WBCSD tries to put reality back into the discussion and looks at facts and figures on this issue. The document, the first output from the Council's new workstream on clean energy technology, provides an overview of biofuel production and use with a special focus on the transport sector. It describes first and second generation biofuels and explores their potential as a possible substitute for fossil fuels.

The Issue Brief tries to unpack key issues and analyze the many variables involved in biofuels policy to open debate by business on the main challenges for this energy source. Although intended primarily for a business audience, the brief provides a general understanding that could serve to inform the general public as well.

By 2050, energy demands are expected to more than double. Biofuels have the potential to meet some of that demand, but will need to be properly managed. If governments can create the right framework conditions through proper market incentives and other policy measures, biofuel production could have net positive environmental and social impacts.

The WBCSD will next engage in greater discussion of the policy considerations for the sustainable production and use of biofuels. The first step on that path will be a meeting on Friday, 7 December 2007 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Bali, Indonesia. During this conference, governments will try to put in place an agenda for negotiations on a post-Kyoto climate framework.

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