Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels may sound a like a good idea but dig a little deeper and there’s a dark side to it
Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels is, on the surface, an attractive idea. Rather than dig fossil carbon (oil, coal, gas) out of the ground, why not recycle the carbon already in the atmosphere? Plants use solar energy to incorporate carbon into their biomass; we can then burn them and cycle the carbon back into the atmosphere where the plants got it. No new carbon is released.
There is a dark side to this glittering promise, though. Too often, the quest to turn plants into fuel replicates or exceeds the worst effects of other extractive technologies. For example, in Brazil’s Cerrado region, a massive land grab is underway to convert diverse ecosystems and locally sustaining agricultural land into monoculture eucalyptus tree farms. To do that, non-deeded public land (the commons) that has been farmed by families for generations is being appropriated and privatised by agribusinesses.