The palm oil industry has been lobbying Europe to allow palm oil-based biofuels to qualify as a low carbon fuel. But environmentalists say substantial amounts of palm oil production occurs at the expense of tropical forests. Here rainforest in Borneo is being cleared and burned for an oil palm plantation. Photo taken in May 2012 by Rhett A. Butler.
The European Union may cap the use of crop-based biofuels over fears they can drive up food prices and aren’t effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional fuels, reports Reuters.
The rules were spelled out in draft legislation seen by Reuters. They still need the approval of lawmakers to go into effect.
“The (European) Commission is of the view that in the period after 2020, biofuels should only be subsidized if they lead to substantial greenhouse gas savings… and are not produced from crops used for food and feed,” the draft said.
The draft suggests the E.U. is scaling back its ambitious, but controversial, biofuels target for 2020. It comes amid high food prices and complaints from environmentalists and other groups that crop-based biofuels production in contributing to deforestation abroad and exacerbating local environmental problems, including pollution.
The E.U. will attempt to made up any shortfall from abandoning crop-based biofuels with biofuels produced from waste and other feedstocks like algae, according to the report.
The E.U.’s target calls for using biofuels to meet 10 percent of transport fuel demand. Crop-based biofuels currently account for about 4.5 percent of Europe’s road fuel consumption.
(11/08/2011) Biofuels produced from oil palm plantations established on tropical peatlands are a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions, reports a comprehensive new assessment conducted for the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
(10/10/2011) Europe’s biofuel push could exacerbate climate change unless policies are in place to accounts for emissions from indirect land use change, warns a letter signed by more than 100 scientists and economists.
(09/21/2011) To encourage uptake of palm oil that is less damaging to the environment, the European Union (EU) should lift the import duty on palm oil certified under Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), said a Dutch industry group.
(03/24/2011) Not too long ago policy-makers, scientists, and environmentalists saw biofuels as a significant tool to provide sustainable energy to the world. However, as it became clear that biofuels were not only connected to deforestation, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions (sometimes exceeding fossil fuels), but also competed with the global food supply and water sources, biofuels no longer seemed like a silver bullet, but a new problem facing the environment and the poor. Still, biofuels have persisted not so much due to perceived environmental benefits, but to entrenched interests by the big agricultural industry, lobbyists, and governments. However, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) hopes to begin certifying environmentally friendly biofuels that don’t compete with food production or water sources.
(01/26/2011) The commercial shows a typical office setting. A worker sits drearily at a desk, shredding papers and watching minutes tick by on the clock. When his break comes, he takes out a Nestle KitKat bar. As he tears into the package, the viewer, but not the office worker, notices something is amiss—what should be chocolate has been replaced by the dark hairy finger of an orangutan. With the jarring crunch of teeth breaking through bone, the worker bites into the “bar.” Drops of blood fall on the keyboard and run down his face. His officemates stare, horrified. The advertisement cuts to a solitary tree standing amid a deforested landscape. A chainsaw whines. The message: Palm oil—an ingredient in many Nestle products—is killing orangutans by destroying their habitat, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
(08/30/2010) The European Union’s renewable fuels target is driving land grabs in Africa that threaten the environment and local communities, claims a new report from Friends of the Earth (FOE).
(06/10/2010) The E.U. today moved to establish environmental standards for biofuels used in Europe, requiring biofuels to deliver “substantial reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions and not result in conversion of forests or wetlands, according to a statement from the European Commission.
(07/16/2009) Sustainable biofuels can be a reality but only in combination with reductions in fuel demand and increased productivity on existing agricultural lands, argue researchers writing in the journal Science. Five years ago biofuels were seen as a panacea for the world’s energy hunger and the need to address climate change, but increased production of biofuels soon contributed to a clutch of problems, including competition with food, resulting in rising prices, and large-scale conversion of rainforests and tropical grasslands for feedstocks, resulting in biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists and scientists condemned many biofuels — including ethanol produced from Midwestern corn ethanol and biodiesel generated from European rapeseed and Southeast Asian palm oil — as a short-sighted energy solution. Some biofuels were found to be even worse for the environment, and more costly, than conventional gasoline. However some researchers remain optimistic that smart biofuel production could help meet energy demand without hurting people or the planet. In a Science Policy Forum piece, David Tilman and colleagues explore some of these options, noting that biofuels can be produced in substantial quantities at low environmental cost
(09/12/2008) The E.U. voted to relax biofuels targets following widespread criticism of their social, economic, and environmental impacts. Thursday the European Parliament’s Industry and Energy Committee said it would push a plan calling for a 5 percent share of renewables in transport fuel by 2015 and a 10 percent target by 2020, a reduction from the 20 percent target set forth in March 2007. The plan effectively cuts targets for biofuels produced from conventional feedstocks to four percent in 2015 and six percent in 2020.
(08/27/2008) The British government should end subsidies for biofuels and instead use the funds to slow destruction of rainforests and tropical peatlands argues a new report issued by a U.K.-based think tank. The study, titled “The Root of the Matter” and published by Policy Exchange, says that “avoided deforestation” would be a more cost-effective way to address climate change, since land use change generates more emissions than the entire global transport sector and offers ancillary benefits including important ecosystem services.