Leaked documents indicate EU looking to reclassify carbon emissions from biofuels

palm oil
Oil palm plantation on the slopes of Mt. Cameroon. Image: Wikipedia.
(PhysOrg.com) -- In order to wean themselves from their dependence on oil derived from fossil fuels, many countries, consortiums, and other groups have put incentives in place for the growing of plants that could be used to create biofuels. Brazil is one example, they have converted much of their infrastructure to using fuel made from sugar cane. The United States is another example; the government offered subsidies and tax advantages for farmers who grow corn, to promote the production of ethanol. In Europe, the EU back in 2009 enacted laws that stipulated that renewable energy sources such as those derived from plants should make up a minimum of 10% of all fuels used for transportation purposes in the Eurozone by 2020. Unfortunately, it appears, according to a leaked report obtained by EurActiv, that the EU believes initial environmental impact reports were flawed and as a result the governing body is about to revise its estimates regarding the true environmental impact; a move that could have a major implications regarding the future of biofuel use in Europe.

The problem with suddenly switching from one energy source to another is it’s tricky to see in advance what sorts of incidental actions might occur. In the United States, for example, the sudden increase in land being used for corn production for use as a biofuel led to food price spikes all over the world. In Europe, the problem is when biofuels are made from palm oil, land that was once being used to grow food in countries such as in Malyasia, suddenly is converted to produce palm oil (because can make more money) meaning new land must be made available for growing food. And that’s where the environmental impact comes in. Cutting down forests to grow those food crops adds significantly to the carbon footprint of the biofuels made from palm oil. Such a scenario is known as an Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC).

Specifically, the report says, when ILUC is taken into account, biofuels made from palm oil, soybeans and rapeseed, actually produce more greenhouse gas emissions than do . To arrive at these findings, the EU uses an equation derived from a variety of factors to obtain a measurement based on grams of carbon dioxide produced per megajoule of energy. In the report, for example, palm oil is rated at 105g, whereas gasoline is less than 90g. At the top of the list is oil pulled from the tar sand pits in Canada (107g) likely one of the reasons President Obama recently nixed the pipeline that was supposed to ship it south through the United States.
While it’s not yet known what impact this report will have on use in Europe, it’s likely the EU will make some changes to the legislation passed just three years ago, tipping perhaps towards solar, wind or even nuclear power to address the ever growing energy needs of a thirsty European Union.


Explore further

New study suggests EU biofuels are as carbon intensive as petrol

© 2011 PhysOrg.com

Citation: Leaked documents indicate EU looking to reclassify carbon emissions from biofuels (2012, January 30) retrieved 16 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-01-leaked-documents-eu-reclassify-carbon.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 30, 2012
Climate science is just messy enough that the next generation will over turn the previous. We already saw this in the 70's.

Jan 30, 2012
Climate Gate again it looks like.

Jan 31, 2012
"is oil pulled from the tar sand pits in Canada " Please use technically correct term. It is oil sands not tar sands. The process used in Canada to get the oil is literally hot water washing of the dirt. Tar is formed by a type of distillation of oil, either done artificially or naturally (like La Brea in california) and that is not what is being processed. Accuracy is important, whether for or against.

Jan 31, 2012
Biofuels are most environmentally unfriendly source of energy, despite of their seeming recoverability. Their impact to economy and life environment can be really devastating. For example the same plant can be harvested from one place just few years, after then the soil becomes exhausted and without fertilization it changes into desert.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more