The BBC report
The BBC reports that Europe’s Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimashas admitted that the EU did not foresee the problems raised by its policy to get 10% of Europe’s road fuels from plants.
Recent reports have warned of rising food prices and rainforest destruction from increased biofuel production. The EU has promised new guidelines to ensure that its target is not damaging.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said it would be better to miss the target than achieve it by harming the poor or damaging the environment.
Reports have warned that some biofuels barely cut emissions at all – and others can lead to rainforest destruction, drive up food prices, or prompt rich firms to drive poor people off their land to convert it to fuel crops.
”We have to have criteria for sustainability, including social and environmental issues, because there are some benefits from biofuels.”
He said the EU would introduce a certification scheme for biofuels and promised a clampdown on biodiesel from palm oil which is leading to forest destruction in Indonesia.
The IHT report
James Kanter reports in the International Herald Tribune that in a sign of shifting attitudes toward biofuels, European Union officials are proposing to ban imports of certain fuel crops whose production could do more harm than good in fighting climate change, according to a draft law seen Monday.
The proposals, to be unveiled next week, are aimed at enhancing the environmental credentials of biofuels like biodiesel or ethanol to counter concerns that European drivers are playing a role in destroying wetlands, forests and grasslands in areas like Southeast Asia or Latin America each time they fill up their tanks.
The commission would require that biofuels used in Europe should deliver “a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings.” It also emphasizes that areas like rainforests and lands with high levels of biodiversity should not be converted to growing biofuels.
Zainuddin Hassan, the manager in Europe for the Malaysian Palm Oil Council in Brussels said, “The Malaysian government is very concerned about the EU scheme for sustainability of biofuels”. The measures “should not be a trade barrier to the palm oil industry and it should comply with the WTO rules as well,” he said, referring to the World Trade Organization.
Last week scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute warned that biofuels production could result in environmental destruction, pollution and damage to human health.
The Smithsonian cited a Swiss study showing that fuels made from U.S. corn, Brazilian soy and Malaysian palm oil may even be worse overall than fossil fuels. The best alternatives, according to the Swiss study, include biofuels from residual products, also known as second generation, like recycled cooking oil and ethanol from grass or wood.
The article by Kanter explains the issues well; a highly recommended read.