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Biofuels: Not So Eco-Friendly?

Update Date: Jan 11, 2013 06:59 AM EST

Here is a shocker for those who think that biofuels are environment-friendly. A recent study indicates that biofuels are not that environment-friendly after all, as their emission leads to the release of a chemical in the environment, which, when mixed with other pollutants, can result in reduced crop yield.

At a time when the world is looking for ways to conserve energy, this research could come as a major setback.

"Growing biofuels is thought to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What we're saying is 'yes, that's great, but biofuels could also have a detrimental effect on air quality'," Nick Hewitt, who, along with his colleagues from England's Lancaster University, conducted the study, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The study, which was published in the Nature Climate Change, examined the effect of biofuels on the environment.

The most commonly used biofuels are poplar, willow or eucalyptus trees. These trees, on burning, release a chemical substance called isoprene. This chemical, when combined with other pollutants in the environment, changes to toxic ozone in the presence of sunlight. Since ozone can cause lung problems, the control of the environment around the manufacture of biofuel is extremely important.

According to the researchers, Europe's "Green Scheme" to produce more biofuels can cause approximately 1,400 premature deaths a year by 2020. This can be avoided by locating the biofuels factory as far away from a locality as possible. Also, they can be genetically engineered to reduce the amount of isoprene emission.

Europe has implemented a green scheme to delay the change in climate and decrease the level of pollution. The main difference between biofuels and fossil fuel is that while the former is considered neutral for climate change, the latter is known to add carbon to the atmosphere. This is because the plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and release them when they burn or rot. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are obtained from underground reserves which are millions of years old.

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