Biocombustibles de primera generación: ¿Buenos o malos para el hombre y la biósfera? (1)

Los autores de este estudio concluyen que “bajo los actuales sistemas de producción, el efecto negativo de los imoactos de la producción de biocombustibles sobre la depleción del fósforo parece exceder a los impactos positivos sobre la mitigación del cambio climático.” Y, agregan, “los actuales objetivos para biocombustibles” – que dicen que solamente pueden alcanzarse con fuentes de biocombustibles de primera generación, como ha sido descrito por la Agencia Internacional de Energía (2008) – “afectará la seguridad alimentaria futura y puede tener un impacto neto negativo sobre el futuro bienestar.”

Referencia
Hein, L. y Leemans, R. 2012. The impact of first-generation biofuels on the depletion of the global phosphorus reserve. Ambio 41: 341-349.

 

 

En la introducción a su estudio del tema, Hein y Leemans (2012) Escriben que “los biocombustibles han sido muy promocionados por muchos gobiernos para reducer las emisiones de CO2  y apoyar la diversificación de las Fuentes de energía,” apuntando al mismo tiempo que “la gran mayoría del bioetanol y biodiesel que se produce hasta la fecha es biocombustible de ‘primera generación’, biocombustible obtenido a partir de materias primas agrícolas utilizando tecnologías convencionales,” siendo las principales para el bioetanol la caña de azúcar, el maíz,el trigo y la remolacha azucarera mientras que para el biodiesel se utiliza principalmente la colza, la soya y el aceite de palma. Afirman además que “ ahora se han establecido mandates y/u objetivos para ontener biocombustibles en Brasil, Canadá, China, la Unión Europea, India, Japón, Malasia, Sudáfrica, Tailandia y los EUA (Bringezu et al., 2009),” si bien apuntan que “el Departamento de Energía de EUA se propone reemplazar para el 2015 el 30% the U.S. Department of Energy targets to replace 30% de la mezcla de combustibles fósiles con biocombustibles y el 25% de sustancias químicas industriales con sustancia químicas derivadas de biomasa,” como lo describió Ragauskas et al. (2006). Sin embargo, los dos investigadores holandeses dicen que existe un número de preocupaciones ambientales relacionadas a la producción de biocombustible de primera generación que podrían complicar estos planes grandiosos; y luego proceden a discutirlas.

One key issue is the fact, as they describe it, that “some biofuel production pathways increase rather than decrease greenhouse gas emissions, due to associated N2O emissions (Crutzen et al., 2007) or, in the case of palm oil cultivated on peatland soils, because of peat oxidation (Wicke et al., 2008).” They also say “there is concern regarding the impacts on food prices of using food crops for biodiesel and bioethanol production,” citing the work of Rosegrant (2008), while further externalities are said by them to relate to “water use, pesticide use, nutrient runoff, and eutrophication of downstream water bodies,” as illustrated by Leemans et al. (1996), Cushion et al. (2010) and de Vries et al. (2010). And last, but by no means least – seeing it is the primary focus of their article – Hein and Leemans contend that committing scarce phosphorus-containing nutrients to biofuel production “involves a trade-off between climate change mitigation and future food production.”

Finally, after analyzing the many mandates and targets of biofuel-infatuated governments in considerable detail, and after judiciously weighing their potential pros and cons, Rik Leemans and Lars Hein (the chair and deputy chair, respectively, of Wageningen University’s Environmental Systems Analysis Group in The Netherlands) conclude that “under current production systems, the negative impacts from biofuel production on phosphorus depletion appear to exceed the positive impacts on climate change mitigation.” And, therefore, they state that “current targets for biofuels” – which they say can only be filled with first-generation biofuel sources, as described by the International Energy Agency (2008) – “will affect future food security and may have a net negative impact on future welfare.”

Thus, it would appear that the dream of growing the fuel required to keep the engines of industry humming – as well as the engines that enable many of our leisure pursuits – really was, based on Hein and Leemans’ analysis, simply too good to be true.

Referencias Adicionales

Bringezu, S., Schutz, H., O’Brien, M., Kauppi, L., Howarth, R.W. y McNeely, J. 2009. Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels. UNEP, Paris, France.

Crutzen, P.J., Mosier, A.R., Smith, K.A. y Winiwarter, W. 2007. N2O release from agro-biofuel production negates global warming reduction by replacing fossil fuels. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions 7: 11,191-11,205.

Cushion, E., Whiteman, A. y Dieterle, G. 2010. Bioenergy Development: Issues and Impacts for Poverty and Natural Resource Management. World Bank, Washington, DC, USA.

De Vries, S.C., van de Ven, G.W.J., van Ittersum, M.K. y Giller, K.E. 2010. Resource use efficiency and environmental performance of nine major biofuel crops, processed by first-generation conversion techniques. Biomass and Bioenergy 34: 588-601.

Leemans, R., Van Amstel, A.R., Battjes, C., Kreileman, G.J.J. y Toet, A.M.C. 1996. The land cover and carbon cycle consequences of large-scale utilizations of biomass as an energy source. Global Environmental Change 6: 335-357.

Ragauskas, A.J., Williams, C.K., Davison, B.H., Britovsek, G., Cairney, J., Eckert, C.A., Frederick Jr., W.J., Hallett, J.P., Leak, D.J., Liotta, C.L.,Mielenz, J.R., Murphy, R., Templer, R. y Tschaplinski, T. 2006. The path forward for biofuels and biomaterials. Science 311: 484-489.

Rosegrant, M.W. 2008. Biofuels and Grain Prices: Impacts and Policy Responses. Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, USA.

Wicke, B., Dornburg, V., Junginger, M. y Faaij, A. 2008. Different palm oil and production systems for energy purposes and their greenhouse gas implications. Biomass and Bioenergy 32: 1322-1337.

 

http://nipccreport.org/articles/2012/sep/25sep2012a3.html

(1)   Traducido por el Departamento de Traducciones del ICEES.

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