The Biofuel Timebomb

Article by Dr Andrew Boswell

This article was first published in Trees, the publication of the Journal of the
International Tree Foundation
, December 2007, as UNFCCC, Bali, started. This article is an overview review of the threats to trees from mass scale biofuels development across a number of developing aspacts: deforestation, peat destruction, energy generation from oils, wood-based biodiesel production, GM technology, and regulatory failure.

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  1. See for example, 71% growth in predicted energy between 2003 and 2030, figures 8 and 10 in
  2. “Declarations From The South” on biofuelwatch website,
  3. The flow of palm oil. Colombia- Belgium/Europe. A study from a human rights. Perspective, HREV/CBC,
  4. Massacres and paramilitary land seizures behind the biofuel revolution, Guardian, 5/06/07,
  5. Agrofuels – Towards a reality check in nine key areas – Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trade Watch/TNI, Corporate Europe Observatory, Econexus, Ecoropa,Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Munlochy Vigil, NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Rettet Den Regenwald and Watch Indonesia,
  6. Stop the agrofuel craze!, GRAIN,
  7. Open Letter to EU from 250 NGOs,
  8. EU Agrofuel Moratorium Call,
  9. Emission Trickery

  10. “Green Gold Biodiesel: Players in Indonesia” , Marianne Kulte, Watch Indonesia,
  11. Greenpeace, Protecting Papuan forests important to help avert climate catastrophe, August 2007,
  12. Page 171, Stern Review, Chapter 7 Projecting the growth of greenhouse gas emissions
  13. Malaysia calls for sustainable expansion of palm oil plantations, International Herald Tribune, 5/12/06, – (archived at
  14. Policy, practice, pride and prejudice, Review of legal, environmental and social practices of oil palm plantation companies of the Wilmar Group in Sambas District, West Kalimantan (Indonesia), July 2007 report by Milieudefensie, Lembaga Gemawan and Kontak Rakyat Borneo,
  15. Deforestation, biodiversity losses and palm oil in
  16. Uganda leads the Way in Grassroots Protest

  17. biofuelwatch alert –
  18. Uganda’s forests in the balance, World Birdwatch magazine, July 2007,
  19. eg at
  20. Birdlife International,
  21. Uganda scraps plan to cut rainforest for palm oil, Reuters,
  22. Peatland

  23. Peat CO2, Wetlands International
  24. The bog barons: Indonesia’s carbon catastrophe, Fred Pearce, New Scientist, December 1st 2007,
  25. Global warming: Met Office predicts plateau then record temperatures,
  26. Carbon Mitigation by Biofuels or by Saving and Restoring Forests?, Science August 17th 2007,
  27. Carbon Mitigation by Biofuels or by Saving and Restoring Forests?, Science August 17th 2007, supporting online material,
  28. Energy from Oil Crops

  29. Co-generation in Europe, Fiona Riddoch, page 45, Co-Generation and On-site Power, August 2007,
  30. Wärtsilä leads Italian liquid biofuels power market,
  31. European Market Study for BioOil (Pyrolysis Oil), Climate Change Solutions,
  32. Pulp Friction

  33. The pulp industry and the biofuels boom, World Rainforest Movement , Nov 2006,
  34. For more on industrial tree plantations, see and
  35. Stora Enso and Neste Oil to join forces in biofuel development, and
  36. eg gasification and Fischer-Tropsch technologies
  37. Biodiesel Generations, Neste Oil presentation,
  38. Challenges and Opportunities offered by Biofuels for the Finnish Forest Cluster, Stora Ensa presentation,
  39. Stora Enso, Deutsche BankSeminar Nov 2006,
  40. Portocel,
  41. Brazil: Indigenous Peoples re-start actions to take back their land from Aracruz, World Rainforest Movement , July 2007,
  42. Letter from indigenous peoples and 347 groups to Forest Stewardship Council against FSC seal for Veracelmonoculture eucalyptus plantations, August 14th 2007, World Rainforest Movement,
  43. Changing Nature

  44. Alternet: Frankenforests: GE Trees Threaten Ecosystem Collapse, August 2007,
  45. Large Alliance of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Calls for Ban on Genetically Modified Trees for Biofuels, July 2007,
  46. Global Justice Ecology Project, Stop GE Trees,
  47. Regulation Failure

  48. Biofuels switch a mistake, say researchers, Guardian 17/8/07,
  49. Renewables Transport Fuel Obligation, UK Department for Transport,
  50. Comment and discussion of RTFO, biofuelwatch message board,
  51. Biofuels are displacing people, Andrew Boswell,
  52. ‘Reduced Emissions From Deforestation’: Can Carbon Trading Save Our Ecosystems?, Almuth Ernsting, Deepak Rughani,
  53. Reducing Demand

  54. George Monbiot, Heat,
  55. High Stakes: Designing emissions pathways to reduce the risk of dangerous climate change, ippr,
  56. See ‘demand reduction’ slides in presentation by author at
  57. Deep emission cuts, Andrew Boswell, Daily Telegraph letters, January 2007,
  58. For more on concentrated solar power, see TREC-UK,