Archived News Item

Are biofuels one of the solutions to greenhouse gas emissions?

Ways of reducing pollution of the environment are always being examined. The use of biofuels has been the subject of considerable investigation. There are factors that favour the use of biofuels, but there are also factors that must be seriously considered in making biofuels more widely used. We need to be informed so that we can make a difference.


What is Biofuel?

Biofuels are fuels produced from renewable organic sources. Biofuels with commercial prospects in Australia are ethanol and biodiesel. Biofuels, such as biodiesel produced from oil-seeds, and ethanol produced from wood or sugarcane, can be a greenhouse-neutral, renewable energy source for use in transport vehicles, stationary engines, and small electricity generators.


Australian Government Initiatives

Since May 2005, the Australian Government has been active in investigating the latest scientific evidence on the impact of ethanol and other biofuel use on human health, environmental outcomes and automotive operations.


On September 22, 2005, the Prime Minister released the report of the Biofuels Taskforce. The Taskforce found that:

§          there are potentially significantly greater health benefits from ethanol use than previously thought; and

§          greenhouse and regional benefits are similar to previous research undertaken; but that

§          the biofuels industry faces considerable market barriers including low consumer confidence and high commercial risk; and

§          on current settings the Government’s biofuels production target of 350 megalitres (ML) by 2010 will not be met.


In response to these findings, the Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to achieving the target of at least 350 ML of biofuel production by 2010. The Prime Minister also announced a package of measures to help address market barriers and restore consumer confidence in the biofuels industry. The Government will:

§          work closely with oil companies to develop Industry Action Plans to underpin the achievement of the 350 ML target;

§          closely monitor progress against the Industry Action Plans to ensure all actions are delivered on time;

§          demonstrate its confidence in ethanol blended fuel by encouraging users of Commonwealth vehicles to purchase E10 where possible.


Some Concerns

If the use of biofuels is to be considered as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels, one serious issue that must be faced is the necessity for large areas of arable land to be used for cultivation of the necessary crops.


Does this mean the diversion of land currently used to produce food crops and is that justified when there are millions that are already lacking is sufficient food to sustain them? Is the clearance of land to allow the development of these crops justified when the detrimental effects of land clearance are well known and the benefits of use of biofuels will not balance the harm of land clearance?


Here are some documents and reliable websites that give clear outlines of both sides of the issue.




On Line Opinion This link is to a three minute video that briefly outlines the issues. It does not provide the solutions in such a short time!


Green Left This is a longer article that goes into more detail about the issues and some of the national and international matters that need to be addressed.


The Australian Government Biofuels Taskforce page


From: Specific Issues Committee, Eco-Justice (Sisters Margaret Abbott, Mary Dennett, Patricia Powell and Mary Tinney) The Committee warmly invites your response to the article or the issue.



Contact: Carmel Heagerty RSM, Institute Justice Co-ordinator