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European Biofuel Bubble Bursts

Alternative Energy

Ten years of debate in the European Union over the detrimental effects of the demand for biofuels for transport on food prices, hunger, forest destruction, land consumption and climate change have come to an end.

The European Parliament finally agreed new E.U. laws on Apr. 28 to limit the use of crop-based biofuels, setting a limit on the quantity of biofuels that can be used to meet E.U. energy targets.

With Europe the world’s biggest user and importer of biodiesel – from crops such as palm oil, soy and rapeseed – the vote is expected to have a major impact around the world, notably in the European Union’s main international supplier countries Indonesia, Malaysia and Argentina. It is likely to signal the end to the expanding use of food crops for transport fuel.

“Let no-one be in doubt,” said Robbie Blake, Friends of the Earth Europe’s biofuels campaigner, “the biofuels bubble has burst. These fuels do more harm than good for people, the environment and the climate. The EU’s long-awaited move to put the brakes on biofuels is a clear signal to the rest of the world that this is a false solution to the climate crisis. This must spark the end of burning food for fuel.”

With the vote, the European Union has agreed to put a limit on biofuels from agricultural crops at seven percent of E.U. transport energy – with an option for member states to go lower. Before the vote, the expected ‘business as usual’ scenario was for biofuels to account for 8.6 percent of E.U. transport energy by 2020. Current usage stands at 4.7 percent, having declined in 2013.

Indirect greenhouse emissions released by expanding biofuels production will be reported every year by the European Commission and by fuel suppliers in an attempt to increase the transparency of the impacts of the policy.

Commenting on the vote, Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International’s food sovereignty coordinator, said: “While the EU has not gone far enough to stop the irresponsible use of food crops for car fuel, this new law acknowledges a reality that small-scale food producers worldwide know – that biofuel crops cripple their ability to feed the world, compete for the land that provides their livelihood, and for the water that sustains us.”

Around the world, 64 countries have policies 64 countries have policies to increase or maintain the amount of biofuels used in transport fuel, including most recently Indonesia, which has been criticised by environmentalists as promoting a policy that will accelerate deforestation in the country.

Kurniawan Sabar, campaign manager for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, said: “The people of Indonesia will be relieved to hear that the EU has taken some action to limit Europe’s demand for palm oil for biofuels, which has escalated deforestation, land grabbing, and conflicts in Indonesia. The Indonesian government should take note and abandon its own plans for new subsidies to expand biofuels plantations in Indonesian forests.”


7 Comments on "European Biofuel Bubble Bursts"

  1. BobInget on Wed, 29th Apr 2015 10:31 am 

    Gee, I can remember when we were all going to be powered by used up fry oil, don’t you?

    This entire plan, soy, palm oil diesel was concocted by folks who never operated a tractor for 12 hours a day seven days a week.

    Farmers love growing corn or beans for fuel.
    Transportation fuel, second only to food itself boosts prices for beans and corn used in soy diesel and ethanol. When oil prices collapsed many ethanol distilleries closed.

    The simple truth, we can’t grow food crops,
    or cut, dry, gather transport, process annual grasses without a negative fuel outcome.

    “No diesel=starvation=chaos”.

    The above truth is exactly why Saudi Arabia
    feels the need to defend it’s single resource so vigorously. Why US Armed Forces invaded Iraq, defended Kuwait, toppled a democratic
    government in Iran, engineered coups in Venezuela, endeavored to secure pipeline routes in Afghanistan. etc, etc.

    Why a previously environmentalist president
    Obama became a realist when learning this
    terrible obviously but oft denied fact.

    Without diesel, all but 2% die off.

  2. beammeup on Wed, 29th Apr 2015 10:56 am 

    Bob – Not sure I’m following your message. Are you saying that without the production of biofuels, crop prices will collapse and farmers will go bust, leading to food shortages?

  3. Perk Earl on Wed, 29th Apr 2015 1:10 pm 

    “The European Parliament finally agreed new E.U. laws on Apr. 28 to limit the use of crop-based biofuels, setting a limit on the quantity of biofuels that can be used to meet E.U. energy targets.”

    I’m wondering if the above development is the reason for the jump in oil price today?

    Crude Oil (WTI) USD/bbl. 59.09 +2.03 +3.56% Jun 15 13:30:49
    Crude Oil (Brent) USD/bbl. 66.35 +1.71 +2.65% Jun 15 13:31:03

  4. Lawfish1964 on Wed, 29th Apr 2015 3:14 pm 

    Biofuels are a joke! Ethanol has a negative EROEI when all inputs are considered. It’s a big ag subsidy. And it can screw up a damn internal combustion motor! I have to drive across town to get no-ethanol gas to power my mower and 2-stroke tools (yes I till using gasoline).

    100 years from now, people will look back at us as the stupidest, greediest, short-sighted generation ever to walk the planet (or what’s left of it).

  5. Go Speed Racer. on Wed, 29th Apr 2015 5:44 pm 

    Heck ya, buy alcohol-Fred gas whenever you can. You can still buy leaded gas too. Go to your local airfield, they have it for Cessna planes. Put it into your 60’s muscle car 454 big block. With a bird catcher.

  6. Stephen on Thu, 30th Apr 2015 12:38 am 

    What we need to ramp up is ALGAE biofuel. It doesn’t compete with food.

  7. Davy on Thu, 30th Apr 2015 2:54 am 

    Stephen there is no free lunch. Everything competes with everything in a global interconnected system. It takes energy to make energy so your algae fuel will take resources from elsewhere. Algae is a joke because it will never scale and will never be affordable. It is another pie in the sky technological dead end. Try less with less across the board. That is the only thing that will scale and in time.

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