If you've been wondering how to gauge the overall impact of the biofuel you use (or wish you could), the Friends of the Earth, a global network of environmental groups, is trying to make it possible with just a few clicks. The group's new biofuel impact database is now online and it's a good idea with a lot of potential.

I tested the database by choosing ethanol made from corn and compared it to biodiesel made from soybeans. Then, I selected health and Energy Ratio/Balance impacts, and got these results: corn ethanol has an estimated energy range between 0.58 to 1.71 and soy biodiesel's range is 1.42 to 3.213. There are no health impacts listed for the ethanol, but the biodiesel's alert says, "Genetically Modified roundup ready, glyusophosate, is believed to have caused reproductive problems, genetic damage, liver tumors, developmental delays." Each result has a footnote, but some users have warned that these footnotes sometimes go to obscure sources, so we should be wary. In short, this database is not ideal nor is it ultra-easy to use, but it is better than not having a system like this at all. And just figuring out what type of biodiesel or ethanol you want to know more about is a good way to see the diversity in feedstocks and methods that biofuels promise.

[Source: Friends of the Earth]

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