EU cuts use of food-based biofuels

Oct 17, 2012
Samples of stock used to make biofuel. The European Commission said Wednesday that it was cutting targets for the use of biofuels so as to reduce the negative impact on food production and prices.

The European Commission said Wednesday that it was cutting targets for the use of biofuels so as to reduce the negative impact on food production and prices.

Critics said the measure did not go far enough while a UN official called for the European Union and the United States to abandon biofuels altogether as land used to produce them was needed by farmers to grow food instead.

The Commission said it would now limit the role of 'first generation' biofuels based on crops such as corn, or rapeseed so as to ease the pressure on and encourage investment in non-food biofuels.

Accordingly, first generation biofuels would account for no more than 5.0 percent of transport sector energy use by 2020, up from 4.5 percent now and compared with an overall 10 percent target for renewables.

The balance of the 10 percent would be met by new biofuels based on non-food sources such as biomass or waste, or other as in electric vehicles, the Commission said.

Cutting the target to 5.0 percent aims "to stimulate the development of alternative ... second generation biofuels from non-food ... which emit substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and do not directly interfere with ," it said.

To be effective, biofuels had to be "truly sustainable," said Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard.

"We must invest in biofuels that achieve real and do not compete with food," Hedegaard added in a statement.

The change comes after persistent criticism of the impact of biofuels on food production and prices, with food security emerging as a top item on the international agenda.

At the same time, recent research showed that some production was failing to deliver hoped-for reductions in because changing land use to grow crops for energy had its own adverse impact on emissions.

As the changes were announced in Brussels, the UN's special rapporteur for the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, called on the European Union and the United States to stop using biofuels outright.

"Europe has to do more than lower its targets for production of biofuels as it is planning. It has to have the political courage to abandon them and the United States should do the same," De Schutter said.

"It is dangerous in a situation in which global cereal stocks are so low to set unattainable objectives," he said on the sidelines of a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) meeting in Rome.

Explore further: Switch on sunlight for a brighter future

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU to trim biofuel targets on greenhouse gas fears

Sep 11, 2012

The European Union plans to trim targets on biofuel use, once seen as a potential source of cheap alternative energy but now widely blamed for soaring food prices, according to a draft proposal.

Biofuel policy needs rethink, says UN expert

Nov 25, 2011

The UN special rapporteur on the right to food urged the EU for a rethink on biofuels Friday, saying huge errors had been committed in the initial enthusiasm for an alternative to harmful fossil fuels.

France reconsiders plans to boost biofuel use

Sep 12, 2012

France said Wednesday it would reconsider its plans to further develop the use of biofuel, once seen as a potential source of cheap alternative energy but now blamed for soaring food prices.

Better plants for biofuels

May 02, 2012

An article in F1000 Biology Reports published today argues that recent advances in knowledge mean that plant-derived biofuels could meet about 30% of the global demand for liquid transportation fuels, drastically reducing the am ...

Biofuels, like politics, are local

Feb 13, 2009

Field work and computer simulations in Michigan and Wisconsin are helping biofuels researchers understand the basics of getting home-grown energy from the field to consumers. Preliminary results presented today suggest that ...

Recommended for you

Switch on sunlight for a brighter future

2 hours ago

Imagine sitting in a windowless room yet having the feeling of the sun shining on your face. This unique experience is now possible thanks to the COELUX EU-funded project which recreates the physical and ...

US urged to drop India WTO case on solar

18 hours ago

Environmentalists Wednesday urged the United States to drop plans to haul India to the WTO to open its solar market, saying the action would hurt the fight against climate change.

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

Apr 23, 2014

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...

Finalists named in Bloomberg European city contest

Apr 23, 2014

Amsterdam wants to create an online game to get unemployed young people engaged in finding jobs across Europe. Schaerbeek, Belgium, envisions using geothermal mapping to give households personalized rundowns of steps to save ...

Bloomberg invests $5M in solar-powered lamp

Apr 22, 2014

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation has announced a $5 million investment in an artsy-looking solar-powered lamp designed for use in off-grid populations in Africa.

User comments : 0

More news stories

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...