The European Union steps back on biofuels

After Germany, it seems that the whole European Union is willing to steps back on its support to biofuels as they are one of the main reason for the recent riots of hunger.

First generation biofuels’ use are competing directly with the traditional consumption of cereals: food. Even worse, some studies have shown that they may be as polluting as fossil fuels.

I never have been a huge fan of biofuels and I am extremely glad that the European Parliament have issued such a statement.

According to the International Herald Tribune :

European legislators said Thursday that ambitious government targets for using biofuels should be pared back dramatically, in a big setback to the fledgling industry.

European Union governments last year pledged to increase the use of biofuels to 10 percent of all transport fuel by 2020 from a negligible amount currently, amid optimism that energy derived from crops would provide a low-carbon way to power vehicles.

Since then, enthusiasm for many biofuels has waned, with scientists and environmentalists arguing that they may be more polluting than fossil fuels and that the diversion of crops to fuel production has helped to drive up food prices.

On Thursday, members of the Industry Committee of the European Parliament backed proposals for a medium-term goal that would lead to 5 percent of transport fuels from biofuels by 2015, with one percent of that amount from sources like hydrogen or electricity.

They also modified the 2020 target, recommending that at least 4 percent of transport fuels should be made up of electricity and hydrogen from renewable sources, and from biofuels processed from waste or sources that do not compete with food.

The full Parliament and EU governments still must reach an agreement on any targets before they become law – and representatives from the biofuels industry immediately called on lawmakers to maintain a higher target for biofuel use of up to 10 percent by 2020.

(…) Environmentalists praised lawmakers for reducing the target.

“The vote by the European Parliament recognizes the serious problems associated with the large-scale use of biofuels,” said Adrian Bebb, the agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe. “Using crops to feed cars is a false solution to our climate problems and could lead to irreversible loss of wildlife and misery for millions of people,” Bebb said.

Many scientists and environmentalists say that the benefits to the environment from so-called first generation biofuels were exaggerated. Growing and processing some biofuels may create just as much planet-warming gas as burning fossil fuels. And as prices for staples like wheat and corn have risen, the burden has fallen most heavily on the world’s poorest people.

European legislators started backpedaling on biofuels in July, when another parliamentary body, the Environment Committee, called for a slightly lower medium-term target – 4 percent rather than 10 percent – and also said the measures should be reviewed in 2015 before any decision to ratchet further upward. The legislators stressed the importance of using transport fuels that come from feedstocks that do not compete with food for cropland.

(…) The committee also called for strengthened measures against deforestation, which has resulted from the conversion of forest land to cropland for growing plants used as biofuels.

2 thoughts on “The European Union steps back on biofuels”

  1. “They also modified the 2020 target, recommending that at least 4 percent of transport fuels should be made up of electricity and hydrogen from renewable sources, and from biofuels processed from waste or sources that do not compete with food.”

    The problem is that there are no biofuels whose sources do not compete with food. That’s because growing food requires – land, water, and organic matter for fertiliser. And growing materials for biofuels require – land, water, and organic matter for fertiliser, or the biofuel material is itself organic matter which could be used for fertiliser.

    So that anything you want to burn in your car is something taken away from potential food production.

    Now, in fact we have enough land, water and organic matter to feed the world two or three times over, so that we could use a little bit spare land, water and organic matter for biofuels. This has a precedent in history – in late 19th century England and Europe, about 1/4 of all cultivated land was used to grow fodder for horses and oxen to plough the other 3/4. So that in effect they required 1/4 their land for biofuels to help them grow on the other 3/4.

    Tractors can be more efficient than animals, in that tractors only need fuel when they’re running – but then tractors take a lot of resources to make, and don’t produce manure for the land. So it may be that we’d need less than 1/4 the land for biofuels for tractors, or more. It’s hard to say.

    But still, it seems reasonable to assume that biofuels for farm and food processing machinery are a good prospect. Again, it’s not so different to what we did before we invented the internal combustion engine.

    But biofuels so that everyone can travel around, carrying an extra tonne or two of steel and plastic with them? Not going to happen. As I write here, we just couldn’t get enough.

  2. Thanks for your comment Kyle.

    I agree with you, biofuels should be produced only to allow agriculture to use it. not us,…

    because the day oil will be really too expensive, we will still need food whereas we could cut a lot of our travels by cars and planes…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: