Biofuels - EU Report Shows They Will Make Climate Worse

11 November 2010

petrol pump in wheatfield

This week an independent policy unit, the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) released an important new report, which concluded that the increase in use of biofuels, also called agrofuels, required by the EU, will promote additional greenhouse gas emissions, more than currently emitted by fossil fuels. Under EU law all member states are required to derive 10% of their transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020.

This is confirmation of what environmental activists have been saying for some time: turning over good agricultural land to create bioethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels causes greater GHG (greenhouse gas) outpourings than just growing food. One study by the University of Edinburgh showed that biofuels could increase GHGs by 50 to 70% The extra emissions have been calculated as the equivalent of having 12 to 26 million additional cars on Europe’s roads in 2020.

biofuelled car

Photo: Biofuels car by Gomud13

The core of the report covers Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) which in plain English means turning over a huge area to make biofuels, probably in the third world. The report concludes that between 4.1 and 6.9 million hectares of additional land will need to be planted with wheat, rapeseed and sugar cane, dedicated to biofuel production. This is an area larger than Belgium, but smaller than Eire. The EU law was intended to promote things like electric cars, but the author of the report Catherine Bowyer, says, ‘ This analysis underlines the need to include ILUC in the EU criteria for assessing whether biofuels should count towards the delivery of the renewable energy Directive’s targets. The heavy reliance by Member States on conventional biofuel use in 2020 and the limited use of more advanced or energy efficient transport solutions are also a major concern; action by Member States to promote these would put Europe on a more sustainable pathway ’ .

Biofuels project ree in the Phillipines

Photo: Biofuel project in the Philippines by treesftf

Biofuels remain divisive. They are regarded by some as important to achieving lower carbon transport, in particular by replacing future use of fossil fuels in heavy freight and aircraft. However, the green credentials of some conventionally produced biofuels are increasingly under scrutiny, with mounting concerns over their environmental footprint.

The full report is available from the IEEP website.


Blog by Julian Jackson

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