Despite growing evidence that biofuels may not be the cure-all once envisioned, many countries are still rushing headlong with biofuels development policies that experts say are having negative as well as positive impacts on the sustainable-energy dream. That's the topic of the cover story in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.
In the article, C&EN Contributing Editor Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay points out that belief in biofuels' ability to supply fuel for cars and trucks dates to 1925, when automobile pioneer Henry Ford predicted that plants would be the transportation fuel-of-the-future. That prediction became enshrined in government policies over the last decade as the United States and more than 50 other countries began efforts to integrate biofuels into the fuel supply.
"Producing fuel crops that would meet a country's domestic fuel needs, revitalize rural economies, and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions appeared to be a one-size-fits-all solution," the article states. With scientific research and practical experience, a more realistic view of biofuels' potential has emerged. With it come concerns about government policies involving use of corn and other food crops for biofuel production, for instance, and the environmental impact of the biofuel industry.