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10 Disadvantages of Biofuels

        Auto | Biofuels

7
Deforestation
The growth of palm oil plantations in Indonesia has led to massive amounts of deforestation.
The growth of palm oil plantations in Indonesia has led to massive amounts of deforestation.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

It seemed like a win-win idea: European demand for biofuel was set to spike, driven in part by regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Industry researchers had found an answer in palm oil, a relatively easy-to-produce biofuel source. Plantation owners prepared their operations to meet the demand …

… and environmental chaos ensued. According to some estimates, expansion by Indonesian palm oil plantations caused the vast majority of that nation's deforestation in the late '80s and '90s. And high-consumption production practices -- moving palm oil with petroleum-powered trucks and the practice of draining and burning peat bogs to prepare farmland -- have made the southeast Asian nation one of the world's leading greenhouse gas emitters [source: Rosenthal].

The Indonesian palm oil problem is really a combination of biofuel's drawbacks. The regional nature of high-producing plants such as palm oil means that certain parts of the world are agricultural gold mines: Biofuel demand motivates plantations to expand quickly. But if not done with an eye toward conserving resources and maintaining the spirit of reducing emissions through plant-based fuels, this ramping up of production can lead to greater environmental problems than the ones it's meant to solve.