Biofuels are often presented as the solution to leaving fossil energies behind us; by using vegetable oils and animal fats we will reduce our dependence on oil and pollute less at the same time.
A majority of Internet users seem to be convinced. According to our data, 63% of them see biofuel as an energy of the future. Figures do vary, however, depending on who you ask: three quarters of scientists are in favor, compared to only 41% of NGOs.
In France, its popularity is higher than anywhere in the rest of the world, with more than 90% of Internet users supporting biofuels.
But when it comes to biofuels, not everyone is always speaking about the same thing. To begin with, there are first generation biofuels, which are produced with vegetable oils and animal fats. Largely promoted a few years ago, they have become less popular after reports about how bad they are for environment. It is argued that using plants to create fuel moves the food demand towards other plants, which have to be produced elsewhere. This has led to deforestation and land grabbing by corporations in Africa and South America, although it hasn’t yet happened on European soil where the use of biofuels in public transport has been stuck at 7% since the spring.
In Brasil, the world’s largest biofuel exporter and second largest producer, our figures are the lowest of all with only 55% of Brazilian Internet users considering biofuels an energy of the future. Land grabbing there has been much higher than elsewhere in the world, threatening the Amazon rainforest for example. “Biofuel is only part of the solution to achieve energy transition. It only makes sense if there’s enough raw material. It depends where you are. It’s all about finding a balance, and maybe in Brazil the balance has been exceeded,” analyzes Kristell Guizouarn, head of sustainable development at Avril Group, one of the largest European biofuel producers.
Biofuels are far from fueling petrol stations
Then comes the second generation or ‘advanced’ type of biofuels, which appear to be more eco-friendly. A more recent addition to the biofuel market, they are produced with ethanol, sugar, starch and cellulose, for example, and as they only use the non-edible part of the plant, there is no issue of indirect land use change. This said, ‘advanced’ biofuels still represent a minority of total biofuel production and doubts remain about the feasibility of industrial-scale production. “For second generation boifuels, there is an investment problem. They are not enjoying the same favourable context in which the first generation was developed. Today, it is hard to imagine a bank granting a loan for second generation biofuels,” explains Kristell Guizouarn. This second generation is researched a lot and raises many hopes.