[social_buttons] Today the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) Scientific Committee recommended suspending the EUs target for 10% biofuel usage by 2020, due to concerns that first-generation biofuels (those made from food crops) are environmentally unsound.
Back in 2003, the EU established a Biofuel Directive aimed at replacing 2% of vehicle fuel by 2005, and 5.75% by 2010. The 2005 goal wasn’t met, and despite uncertainty that the EU could even reach the 2010 targets, an ambitious goal of replacing 10% of total fuel usage by 2020 was put in place last year.
Now the EEA isn’t sure that’s such a good idea, and recommended the target be suspended until a new, comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels can be completed. The EEA expressed the following concerns:
- Producing biodiesel or ethanol out of plant material is not the most efficient or environmentally friendly use of biomass when compared to heat or electricity generation.
- Biomass is a finite resource, and using it should be matched with energy efficiency improvements in automobiles (and residential areas).
- The EEA estimated that the land required to meet the 10% target exceeds the amount of arable land available, even with substantial input by second-generation (non-food) feedstocks. Increasing land use will increase pressure on soil, water, and biodiversity.
- Meeting the target would require importing large amounts of biofuels, which could contribute to the accelerating destruction of rain forests in less developed countries.
Europe has been struggling with biofuel policies for some time now. Mandating biofuel targets without having sustainability filters in place may boost industry, but it won’t protect the land. The US is also struggling with biofuel policies and their impacts. See the related links for more: