Is an increased use of biofuels the road to sustainability?
Consequences of the methodological approach
Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
2 Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
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Accepted: 5 January 2017
Published online: 10 February 2017
The global area of planted biofuel crops has been increasing rapidly, but the environmental and social consequences of widespread adoption of biofuel production remain largely unexplored. How do we measure efficiency and net energy of a complex system, such as the interaction between agriculture, human society and technology? This paper provides background and identifies assumptions in its overview of competing and overlapping methods. We emphasize that biofuels, as well as all other resources with their associated processes, should be analyzed as embedded in complex systems. The reason why society looks at biofuels favorably is because the methodological approaches used in the present scientific literature are narrow and far from holistic. What is excluded from the analysis has crucial implications on what is regarded as sustainable.
© Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2017