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An integrated assessment of a large-scale biodiesel production in Italy: Killing several birds with one stone?

  • Russi, Daniela
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    Biofuels are often presented as a contribution towards the solution of the problems related to our strong dependency on fossil fuels, i.e. greenhouse effect, energy dependency, urban pollution, besides being a way to support rural development. In this paper, an integrated assessment approach is employed to discuss the social desirability of a large-scale biodiesel production in Italy, taking into account social, environmental and economic factors. The conclusion is that the advantages in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy dependency and urban pollution would be very modest. The small benefits would not be enough to offset the huge costs in terms of land requirement: if the target of the European Directive 2003/30/EC were reached (5.75% of the energy used for transport by 2010) the equivalent of about one-third of the Italian agricultural land would be needed. The consequences would be a considerable increase in food imports and large environmental impacts in the agricultural phase. Also, since biodiesel must be de-taxed in order to make it competitive with oil-derived diesel, the Italian energy revenues would be reduced. In the end, rural development remains the only sound reason to promote biodiesel, but even for this objective other strategies look more advisable, like supporting organic agriculture.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V2W-4RJKX45-3/1/dddb6c09d04fc38c03eff4527ba993b7
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 36 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 3 (March)
    Pages: 1169-1180

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:36:y:2008:i:3:p:1169-1180
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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    1. Bona, S. & Mosca, G. & Vamerali, T., 1999. "Oil crops for biodiesel production in Italy," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 1053-1056.
    2. Dorado, M.P. & Cruz, F. & Palomar, J.M. & López, F.J., 2006. "An approach to the economics of two vegetable oil-based biofuels in Spain," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 1231-1237.
    3. Janulis, P., 2004. "Reduction of energy consumption in biodiesel fuel life cycle," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 861-871.
    4. Cleveland, Cutler J., 2005. "Net energy from the extraction of oil and gas in the United States," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 769-782.
    5. Cleveland, Cutler J. & Kaufmann, Robert K. & Stern, David I., 2000. "Aggregation and the role of energy in the economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 301-317, February.
    6. Puhan, Sukumar & Vedaraman, N. & Sankaranarayanan, G. & Ram, Boppana V. Bharat, 2005. "Performance and emission study of Mahua oil (madhuca indica oil) ethyl ester in a 4-stroke natural aspirated direct injection diesel engine," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(8), pages 1269-1278.
    7. Wolf, J. & Bindraban, P. S. & Luijten, J. C. & Vleeshouwers, L. M., 2003. "Exploratory study on the land area required for global food supply and the potential global production of bioenergy," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 841-861, June.
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