Biofuel targets could undermine the environmental benefits
Thursday 07 April 2011
Greenhouse gas savings are a key reason for the European Union’s target for 10 per cent of transport fuel to come from renewable energy by 2020. Member states’ renewable energy plans indicate that nearly all of this quota will be in the form of biofuels.
Biofuels have been criticised because of their industrial production methods. When governments classify land as “marginal” to justify its use for agro-industrial biofuel production, this deprives rural communities who depend on such land and nearby water supplies.
An EU expansion in biofuel use will trigger widespread change in the use of land, especially in the southern hemisphere, thus undermining the supposed benefits from substituting biofuels for oil. EU policy justifies the target as essential to stimulate the development of second-generation biofuels. These are meant to unlock the energy potential of non-edible plant material, avoiding conflicts overlanduse and greenhouse emissions. But even if second-generation biofuels become commercially viable, they will not ease the commercial pressures extending agro-industrial monocultures and deforestation.
Moreover, expectations for a future techno-fix perpetuate the drive to expand biofuel production and growth in demand for transport fuel. The biofuel case illustrates the contradiction between sustainability goals and market-driven growth. This contradiction is inherent in the EU’s drive for a “knowledge-based bio-economy”.
Our EU-funded study, examining several agricultural-environmental issues, suggests that Europe could take other pathways to a bio-economy by relocalising production and consumption patterns. This would mean lowering targets for renewable energy in transport fuel, while replacing external inputs with local resources for agricultural production. Only then will a bio-economy be truly “sustainable”.
Les Levidow is co-ordinator of the Co-operative Research on Environmental Problems in Europe project. He co-authored its reports on the European bio-economy and agro-fuel crops and a paper on EU biofuel policy (see www.crepeweb.net). Research leading to these results received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement number 217647.
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...
£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Job opportunity for Nursery Suppl...