Now that the EU’s policies on first-generation biofuels is getting more and more headwind, the biofuels advocates in Brussels (and globally) are holding a plea for quicker research and development of cellulosic or second-generation biofuels. In the impact assessment of its 23 January 2008 climate/energy package, the Commission foresees a 30% share of these new biofuels by 2020.
Cellulosic biofuels are made from non-food crops or waste products such as straw, grasses or wood left-overs (see Wikipedia on cellulosic ethanol).
There are several problems with cellulosic biofuels though. First of all, according to most experts, full commercial production is still ten years off. More fundamentally, a lot of the so-called waste products to be used for cellulosic biofuels are no waste. Nature does not know waste. What we call waste, are in reality nutrients for ecosystems and soils. Removing these waste products could actually lead to soil problems later.
Nevertheless, it makes sense to get more and better information on these second-generation biofuels.
The University of Berkely has this great YouTube video on cellulosic biofuels.
- George Monbiot (in the Guardian, Febr. 2008): The Last Straw
- WorldChanging: Second-generation biofuels (Febr 2008)