EU Biofuels Shenanigans
The proposal aims to reduce the negative impact of crop-based biofuels on climate change and global food production.
The EU’s executive wants food-based biofuels to play a limited role in the transport sector until 2020, after which they should be replaced by second-generation biofuels from waste or products such as straw, which do not demand dedicated land for crops.
But environmental campaigners said crop-based biofuels should be abandoned completely. International development group ActionAid said the growth of crops for fuel encouraged land grabs in the developing world, displacing populations and fuelling social tensions.
“Symbolically (the commission) have recognized the problem, but they haven’t addressed it yet,” said Belinda Calaguas, director of policy and campaigns for ActionAid UK. Biofuels are seen as an alternative to fossil fuels, originally thought to offer a renewable energy source with less impact on climate change.
But their green credentials are hampered when virgin vegetation, such as forests, is cleared to plant biofuel crops – a phenomenon known as Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) which has been witnessed since their introduction.
Factoring in ILUC meant that some crop-based biofuels were “just as bad or worse” for climate change compared to traditional energy sources, said EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard. In addition, biofuels often compete with food production, especially in developing countries, leading to food shortages and driving up prices.
“The proposal is certainly not yet the perfect solution,” said EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger. But the first step was to “freeze the share of first-generation biofuels at the current status.”
The commission wants crop-based biofuels to account for only five per cent of overall fuel usage in the transport sector, while a further five per cent should come from other renewable energy sources by 2020.European biofuels production has a particular impact on developing countries, including many countries in Africa where the fuel is produced for consumption in the EU.