Saturday

18th Nov 2017

Brussels blames part of food price rise on US biofuels policy

  • Trade commissioner Mandelson says that American biofuels policies are having a negative impact on global food prices (Photo: European Community, 2005)

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has conceded that certain biofuel policies contribute to food price rises and increase greenhouse gas emissions, but that Europe's policies are sound.

Instead, Mr Mandelson has suggested that it is Washington's biofuels policies that are having these unwanted consequences.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We can already see that large-scale biofuel production, especially in the US, may be one of the factors pushing up food prices as it diverts resources from food production," said the commissioner, writing in UK daily the Guardian on Tuesday (29 April).

"The race to grow maize for ethanol subsidies in the US reduces the supply of food crops on world markets and drives up the cost of this important staple," he continued.

EU leaders last spring agreed that the EU should increase the use of biofuels in transport fuel to ten percent by 2020, up from a planned 5.75 percent target to be achieved by 2010.

But in recent months the target has come under strong fire with critics saying it is contributing to further poverty in already poor countries as land is cleared for biofuel production.

According to Mr Mandelson, European biofuel production is having "only a minimal effect" on global prices.

Quoting the soundbite green NGOs have been using in their multiple campaigns against biofuels over the last year, the commissioner wrote: "There are enough corn calories in an SUV fuel tank to feed a person for a year."

No social criteria

But he warned that any consideration of social questions amongst the criteria for allowing imports of biofuels would have much wider consequences for Europe's trade agenda.

"Why should we suggest there is an obligation on producers who export sugar cane biofuel, but not on those who export plain sugar cane?"

A trade official told the EUobserver that social questions cannot be included because they "can't be defended that at the WTO," and "in any case, taken to it's logical extreme, we would have to ensure that everything we import, not just biofuels, meet social criteria," he said. "Do we want that?"

"We have to ensure our thoughts are known in other ways, such as pushing our trading partners to sign up to International Labour Organisation standards."

The commission's agriculture spokesperson on Tuesday echoed the criticism of Washington's biofuels strategies.

"It would be wrong to claim, and no one has ever claimed that people in America growing a lot of corn for ethanol does not have an effect."

Nonetheless, he said: "It is not for us to tell the US what strategies and policies to have."

However, not all the commissioners have been singing from the same song sheet. Last week, development commissioner Louis Michel criticised biofuels as a "catastrophe" for food prices.

For his part, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso recently called for a study on whether there is any relationship between the increased food prices around the world and biofuels.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

EU commission wants 'credible' tax haven blacklist

The EU's finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters that he wants a credible EU blacklist of tax havens following the latest media tax avoidance revelations of the wealthy elite in the Paradise Papers.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse