Secure Policies that Ensure Biofuels Are Produced Sustainably

August 10, 2015

Major fuel buyers, such as the aviation industry, are choosing biofuels—energy sources made from living organisms or waste from living organisms—as an alternative to petroleum-based oil and gas. Biofuels have the potential to reduce carbon pollution and provide a renewable energy resource. But if they are produced unsustainably, they do significant harm, contributing to deforestation, destroying wildlife habitat, and increasing carbon pollution. Some biofuels can be as dirty and destructive as the fossil fuels they replace.

NRDC advocates for policies and market incentives that promote sustainable biofuels. Commercial buyers and government agencies often have a hard time determining which biofuels are produced sustainably. Most purchasers don’t have the time or resources to assess every step in a biofuel’s life cycle. Some rely on independent certification programs, but these don’t always follow stringent guidelines.

We are helping buyers make informed decisions. Our experts have examined several biofuel-certification systems across major categories, including greenhouse gas emissions, forestry impacts, and wildlife threats, and we identified those with the highest standards for preserving natural resources.

We are also urging the aviation industry to focus on certified biofuels. The industry has committed to cutting net carbon pollution to half of 2005 levels by 2050, and biofuels will be essential for meeting that goal—but only if they are grown sustainably. NRDC is calling on airlines to make a public commitment to buying all biofuels from certified sustainable sources. This will send a powerful signal to suppliers to meet sustainability standards.

To further expand the market for sustainable biofuels, NRDC advocates in Congress for better tax incentives. Most biofuel tax credits favor first-generation options such as ethanol, which has not only failed to deliver promised climate benefits but also worsens the environmental impacts of intensive corn and soybean production. We have proposed a Greener Biofuels Tax Credit to reward producers who grow biofuels that protect our climate and natural resources.