26th Jun 2019

Commission's own scientists question biofuels

The use of biofuels in the EU have come under assault once again, this time from the European Commission's own scientific institute, the Joint Research Centre.

An unpublished internal report from the research body questions whether the cost of their use is worth the benefits, saying biofuels ultimately might not help fight climate change at all, according to the Financial Times.

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  • Biofuels are causing large price rises in corn and tortillas in Mexico, where people depend on them as basic food items (Photo: Notat)

"The uncertainty is too great to say whether the EU ten per cent biofuel target will save greenhouse gas," reads the study.

"The decrease in welfare caused by imposing a biofuel target is between 33 and 65 billion euros within an 80 per cent probability range," it adds.

The report buttresses worries over biofuels expressed by environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and research from environmental campaign groups that suggests biofuels may actually contribute to global warming through the deforestation and peat bog burning that is required for biofuel sources such as corn or oil palm trees.

Ariel Brunner, EU agriculture policy officer for BirdLife International said in response to the report: "The proposed EU biofuels policy offers hardly any climate benefits at outstanding environmental risks. Now that even the Commission¹s own experts say so, it is time for the biofuels target to be set aside and for fresh thinking on how to really tackle climate change while preserving natural habitats."

Development NGOs are also concerned that already the growth in the use of biofuels is pushing up food prices. Last year, during the 'tortilla crisis', thousands of Mexicans demonstrated against the rise in tortilla and corn prices caused by the growth in US demand for ethanol.

Meanwhile, the competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, plans to adjust rules on state aid for environmental projects in order to permit an increased government subsidy of endeavours such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), public transport projects and emissions trading, according to a report in the weekly European Voice.

The rule change is one of a raft of proposals that make up the commissions package on climate change that will be officially announced next Wednesday (23 January).

Governments would be able to contribute up to 60% of the cost of environmental projects coordinated by large enterprises – up from the current 40%; up to 70% for medium-sized enterprises; and up to 80% for small businesses. For projects awarded by competitive tender, governments can fund up to 100% of their cost.

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