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    « New US Govt Report: Taxpayers Wasting $370 Million On Federal Courts' Security? | Main | Hamid Karzai: A Political Gamble By The US That Didn't Pay Off »
    Monday
    Nov222010

    Is Europe's Increasing Use Of Biofuels Counterproductive For The Environment?

    Earlier this month London and Brussels based, the Institute  for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) released a new report that sheds light on the potential negative environmental impact of Europe's growing demand for biofuels. The report questions if conventional biofuels are indeed a greener alternative to fossil fuels. Biofuels remain a contentious issue. There are many environmentalists who argue against the use of biofuels. 

    Rapid conversion of agricultural land that is being used today for producing food to eat into producing raw materials for the production of biofuels has several negative consequences, including but not limited to the potential of global food shortage, rising food inflation, and deepening global poverty. The IEEP report specifically focuses on the environmental impact of what is called the 'indirect land use change' (ILUC), which is the new land that will have to be used in future for the purpose of growing food to eat, to make up for the loss of the agricultural land that is used solely instead to produce biofuels. Once you bring in the equation, the potential environmental impact of having to start using new land for producing food, biofuels appear to lose some of their green luster. 

    Here's what the IEEP has to say: "Under EU law all Member States are required to derive 10% of their transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020. Plans from national governments setting out how they will reach this target are only now becoming available. These confirm that conventional biofuels (derived from crops such as wheat, rapeseed and sugar cane) will be the primary technology used in delivery.  

    A new report by IEEP concludes that between 4.1 and 6.9 million hectares of additional land will need to be cropped due to the increasing conventional biofuel demand, set out in national plans. This is equivalent to an area of somewhere between the size of Belgium and the Republic of Ireland. The report estimates that this would lead to additional annual emissions of between 27 and 56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2011 and 2020, associated with land conversion. This would be equivalent to having 12 to 26 million additional cars on Europe’s roads in 2020.  

    Under the renewable energy Directive, which specifies the 10% target, biofuels are required to deliver some limited greenhouse gas reductions compared to fossil fuels. However, this only takes into account the direct emissions associated with their production, from original crop to final fuel. Missing from this calculation are other significant consequences, such as ILUC. This occurs when crops displaced by biofuel feedstocks are cultivated elsewhere, causing new land to be brought into arable production. 

    It had been hoped that the 10% target would be used by EU countries as an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions such as use of advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and would drive investment in energy efficiency. However, the report shows that conventional biofuels will dominate up to 2020, accounting for up to 8.8% of transport fuel use or 24.3 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe).  

    The analysis of ILUC impacts is an evolving field and this study applies assumptions based on the best available data sets at the time of drafting[8]. While the figures regarding the scale of ILUC impact may vary between studies, sensitivity tests completed for this assessment show that even when much lower assumptions regarding land use impacts and associated greenhouse gas emissions are adopted, the ILUC impacts are such that biofuels do not deliver emission reductions required under EU law.  

    Biofuels remain devisive. 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."

    David Baldock, Executive Director IEEP said, "Promoting the use of biofuels with no consideration of indirect land use change (ILUC) has the potential actually to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is vital that this situation is rectified and ILUC impacts are urgently addressed within EU law. It is essential to remember that the renewable energy Directive, which is driving EU biofuel use, was adopted to help combat climate change."

    ~ Gauri 

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