Clean Air Task Force

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CATF promotes sustainable agriculture and climate stability by building awareness of the opportunities and risks in biofuels policies and by partnering with leading researchers to analyze the real-world environmental impacts of biofuels.

Additional material detailing CATF's work on biofuels, including Publications, White Papers, Fact Sheets, Presentations, Filings, and Testimony, can be found in the Resources section.

Lacanja burn photo
Deforestation, a leading cause of global warming, can result from poorly designed biofuels policies as illustrated below.
biofuels and indirect land-use change; click for PDF

CATF aims to reshape U.S. biofuels policy by replacing outdated assumptions with data-driven analyses. We collaborate with economists and researchers around the world to anticipate and assess the full impact of biofuel policies on global agriculture and forest product markets, as well as the associated effects on climate, food prices, biodiversity, and social conditions in regions where biofuel feedstocks are grown.

For decades, U.S. energy policies have promoted biofuels production through subsidies and tax credits, motivated by assumptions that biofuels reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, lessen global warming emissions from cars and trucks, and bolster the country's farming sector. In 2007, passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act dramatically expanded the nation's commitment to biofuels, raising mandated consumption of biofuels from 5 billion gallons in 2006 to 36 billion gallons in 2022.

Yet a growing body of evidence is showing that biofuels impose unforeseen economic and environmental costs. Research shows that subsidies and mandates for the production of biofuels, such as corn-based ethanol and palm-based biodiesel, have a net detrimental effect on climate. For instance, the use of productive agricultural lands for fuel crop cultivation has reduced available land for food production, causing world food prices to rise, and forcing farmers and ranchers onto previously untouched land, such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands. Conversion of these lands into farmland releases substantial amounts of CO2 from soil and plants into the atmosphere. As a result, skepticism abounds regarding the potential positive effect of biofuels replacing traditional fossil fuels. Biofuel production also can contribute to global warming by increasing the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, which leads to emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Given the troubling uncertainty about biofuels. environmental ramifications, CATF believes that governments should scale back support for biofuels until better analytic and assessment tools are available. Once they are, we will work for more rational, climate-friendly policies that will promote use of crops and production practices that do not harm society or the environment.