A strong focus on hydrogen-powered or electric driving is a prerequisite for achieving a more sustainable transport sector. This is the assertive suggestion of Bunyod Holmatov, a PhD candidate from the University of Twente.
In general, the transport sector focuses more on biofuels, as they would help decrease greenhouse gas emissions. However, they have a huge impact on both land and water and can replace only a small portion of the energy used up in the transport sector. Holmatov received his doctoral degree in this topic on November 26th, 2020.
The findings of Holmatov’s study illustrate that the water, land, and carbon footprint of electricity and alternative fuels differ significantly, based on several factors. Some of the factors are the raw material used, the kind of output energy, the speculations on the availability of the raw material, and the country.
Biofuels can have a small CO2 footprint and can decrease greenhouse gas emissions, but their land and water needs can render them inappropriate for large-scale production or inferior to other existing alternatives.
The overall goal of this study is to help trigger the public debate regarding the energy transition—specifically, the use of low-carbon fuels in the transport industry to realize the climate targets while taking the water and land impacts of alternative fuels into account.
This is executed in two steps: by calculating the water, land, and carbon footprint of biofuels and by predicting the potential for the regional and global production of biofuels depending on several sustainability criteria.
Land, water, carbon, and energy are interrelated. Determined climate targets and a quick transition to renewable energy sources mostly focus on a decline in carbon emission (footprint).
But the requirement for land and water (footprint) of renewable energy systems turns out to be a highly determining factor for the acceptability and sustainability in the long term. This is because society has already experienced the effect of renewable energy systems like wind turbines, solar parks, biofuel refineries, and biogas digesters.
Land and Water Footprint
Sources like land and water are insufficient. This is why it is essential to comprehend the land and water footprint of renewable energy systems, to match it to the energy produced from fossil fuels. It is crucial to ensure that one issue is not exchanged for another.
At present, fossil fuels are the leading energy source in all sectors of the global economy, and their usage leads to greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in climate change. Of the several sectors, the transport sector is a special case.
This sector discharges a quarter of all greenhouse gases. Due to the huge need for energy density and challenging infrastructure, the transition to low-carbon technologies is highly difficult.