New Report Calls On Europe To Meet Its 2020 Transport Fuel Standards Without Reliance On Biofuels

By redirecting corn, grains, and other food crops to use as an energy source, biofuel policy in the United States and Europe has been driving up the price of food and contributing to ongoing international shortages. Most recently, the New York Times ran an expose on the devastating effects these policies have had on the poor of Guatemala.

Europe in particular has established new standards mandating that all transportation fuels contain 10 percent biofuel by 2020. While amendements have been proposed to limit the biofuels made from food crops or on land previously devoted top food crops to only half of that portion, they remain in limbo.

So it’s encouraging that a new report from the consultancy CE Delft — commissioned by Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and BirdLife Europe — is calling for Europe to meet its 2020 goal without reliance on biofuels from food crops, and laying out the steps for how to get there. GreenBusiness has the story:

The CE Delft report argues the targets can be met through greater investment in fuel efficiency measures, waste and residue-based biofuels, and electric vehicles, alongside tighter rules to phase out the use of biofuels made from land-based food or energy crops.

“The EU Commission’s decision to put a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels is a step in the right direction,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace. “The growing use of transport fuels from crops has driven up food prices, led to more deforestation in places like Indonesia to grow palm oil for fuel, and made climate change worse as a result.”

But he warned that the EU’s proposals needed to be tightened to ensure biofuels that contribute to deforestation and food price inflation are phased out.

“The most serious flaw in the new European biofuel policy is that it does not hold biofuel suppliers accountable for the emissions from indirect land use change, where crops for biofuel displace food production and as a result more rainforests and peatland are cleared to grow food crops,” he said. “So fuel suppliers can still use harmful biofuels like palm oil from Indonesia and claim credit for cutting emissions.”

The report recommends that both the EU and member states should act urgently to “phase out direct and indirect support for land-based biofuels and [adopt] a trajectory from current consumption levels towards near-zero use in order to prevent further environmental and social damage”.

It also calls for tougher reporting requirements for biofuel producers covering their impact on land use and more demanding sustainability criteria for both biofuels and bio-gas.

“The EU and member states need to put a robust policy framework into place that speeds up energy efficiency developments, as well as the production and use of biofuels from waste and residues with no alternative uses,” the report concludes. “This biofuel strategy should be part of a broad biomass and bioenergy strategy, as the sustainable feedstock is limited and other applications will also need sustainable bioenergy to meet their climate goals.”

Almost 870 million people around the world were chronically malnourished between 2010 and 2012. Studies of the food crisis suffered around the globe in 2008 determined that western biofuel policies played a role. And while agricultural production is able to keep pace with global demand for food, that balance becomes more difficult to meet once demand for biofuels is added to the mix, especially during years when the weather is less amenable to crops. So the biofuel demands of Europe — as well as the United States — contribute to this problem by both repurposing existing food supplies, and encouraging farmers to dedicate their land to growing biofuel crops rather than food crops as prices for that produce is driven upwards.

Needless to say, a good deal of human suffering can be produced if Europe can move its energy policy away from the use of any biofuel that impinges on peoples’ food supplies.

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6 Responses to New Report Calls On Europe To Meet Its 2020 Transport Fuel Standards Without Reliance On Biofuels

  1. Paul Klinkman says:

    The second-best way to have zero-emission vehicles is to have interchangeable battery packs, such as is now implementing. I could have told you this at least 12 years ago, but American venture capitalists don’t listen for some reason.

    The best way is to switch to an automated above-grade transit system. This makes the remaining ground roads safer for bicycling.

  2. John McCormick says:

    Hats off to Greenpeace UK.

    Would that the US greens would fight as hard to shut down the ethanol industry in this country as it is fighting to stop the tar sands pipeline.

    US EPA is going ahead with its 15% ethanol mandate despite opposition from Oxfam, cattle, poultry and livestock interests, auto manufacturers concerned about engine damage and warranties.

    Oh, to get our priorities straight…when?

  3. wili says:

    Time to walk, run and bike away from an auto-based transportation system. Good to see someone is rethinking the tragedy that land-based biofuels have become. Besides the obvious impact on food prices, they are a huge drain on dwindling rural water resources.

    I remain dubious about how much we can or should do with ‘waste’ since there really is no such thing. Most of that ‘waste’ should be returned to the ground to improve tilth, or should not be produced in the first place.

    By the way, that 870 million figure was accurate for 2010, but, iirc, it climbed above one billion by 2012. I’ll see if I can track down a source on that, though.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Never, as long as you remain a capitalist society. In such dystopias profit maximisation is the highest, indeed often the only, good considered, and destroyed biospheres and brutalised Guatemalan peasants mere ‘collateral damage’ and ‘externalities’.

  5. quokka says:

    They could also have a good hard look at the amount of agricultural biogas made from corn use in electricity generation in Germany. It’s the world “leader” and seems intent on retaining the title.

  6. Tim Wilkins says:

    So, let me get this straight…the environmentally correct position is to gently cradle the balls of the oil industry, since their contributions to our life and environment are all “positive”?? Folks ought to begin by questioning who benefits from continuing to support and subsidize “Big Oil”, note that primary opposition to “biofuels” comes from oil allies such as API, and probe just under the surface of the anti-biofuel commentary to identify things such as the fact that all those hungry Guatemalan peasants do not use yellow flint corn(an ethanol feedstock) for food, but rather white corn,a different product entirely. The major problem with food price and availability is the cost of conventional petrochemical contribution to transport and packaging cost, harvest and fertilizer costs, and not the use of land, produce and “waste” to manufacture fuels. Lots to discuss here, but blindly adopting the Oil Industry position is flat-out stupid.