Logo 'Fair Fuels?'

Between dead end and energy transition:
A social-ecological multilevel analysis of transnational biofuel policy

Module four: Environmental Assessment of Selected Biofuels and Alternative Forms of Bioenergy Utilization

The environmental assessment of biofuels is a central issue in the debate on their appropriate role in the transport sector. Life cycle assessment is an internationally accepted and standardised method (ISO 14040ff) for calculating relevant environmental impacts due to producing and using products. However, there are still some methodological uncertainties, e.g. it is not yet clear how indirect land use changes (ILUC) can be included in the greenhouse gas balance. ILUC occur when biofuel feedstock cultivation replaces other crops, which are then grown on land with high carbon stocks such as tropical rain forests or peat bogs. These CO2-emissions from soils thus should be associated with biofuel production.

The main research question was thus how the environmental assessment of selected biofuels will turn out if ILUC are included in greenhouse gas balances. One aim of the project was to monitor the development of the methodological approaches for the calculation of ILUC as well as the integration in political regulations. Moreover, an important question was how different biofuels are assessed in comparison to one another. This included a comparison was between domestic and imported biofuels. The specific imported biofuels was chosen based on typical feedstocks in the project-relevant countries (Brazil, Africa). This wassugar cane in Brazil and in Malawi and wheat in Germany. The results of this module got used to derive political recommendations and to highlight relevant aspects for certification systems.