Years Active: 2009-2014

Summary

The aim of this project is to develop a framework for quantifying the overseas ecosystem service impacts of transport fuel production used in the UK, in particular by comparing traditional oil production with biofuel production.

Further Information

Transportation is the single largest energy user in the UK, and almost all of energy used for transportation currently comes from oil. At present, most of this oil comes from UK and Norwegian oil fields in the North Sea, while the rest comes from oil fields in Russia, the Middle East and Africa. However, the North Sea oil fields are slowly becoming less productive, so the UK will increasingly need to import its oil from elsewhere. In addition, our future transportation fuel needs will increasingly be met by renewable biofuels to help the UK meet its ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these biofuels are also grown outside of the UK.

While biofuels are meant to be a green alternative to burning oil, several recent scientific studies have shown that the environmental friendliness of biofuels very much depends on what crops are used to produce them, and where these crops are grown. Several EU legislations are in place to ensure that these future supplies of biofuels are produced in a sustainable manner and not grown on primary forest or land with high biodiversity value, particularly grassland,; however, considerably more research is needed in this field.

The overarching aim of this project was to develop a framework for quantifying the overseas ecosystem service impacts of transport fuel production used in the UK, in particular by comparing traditional oil production with biofuel production. The specific objectives of this project were twofold:

  • To map the potential ecosystem service impacts of oil and biofuel production globally; and
  • To quantify the sources and degree of uncertainty in the assessment of global ecosystem service impacts of transport fuel production.

This project provides a methodology for examining how energy used in the UK, with transport fuels as an exemplar, affects global ecosystem services, the benefits humans gain from nature and thereby enabling governments and energy companies to obtain energy supplies from regions with the least impact on ecosystem services.

The findings were disseminated to the academic community through national and international level activity, such as peer-reviewed articles, journals and conference presentations.