The European Union’s Emission War

The European Union decided pull of the accelerator of its fairly ambitious bio-fuel plans for the future.  Nearly two thirds of the European population feels that climate change is a big issue, yet the EU itself is not planning on holding up its end of the bargain.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest contribution by Anthony Cefali, student at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Earlier today the European Union voted to place restrictions on its initial goal of 10% renewable transportation energy by the year 2020 (assuming that the Large Hadron Collider doesn’t eat us all up first). After surveying 30,000 citizens of the European Union, two thirds reported that climate change was a major issue.  If that large of the population feels that we must act now, then why does the European Union feel the need to curtail the usage of alternate energy?

The law itself was fairly plastic in nature.  Ten percent of the EU’s transportation resources must be renewable by the year 2020, but it never stipulated what forms of energy will make up the 10% until this morning.  Special interest groups are pulling the plastic in all directions.  The environmentalists want the EU to hold off on the production of biofuel under the mantra “no food to feed cars,” and the growing concern that biofuels may not be that much better for the environment than conventional gasoline.  This provokes the corn and soybean farmers of the EU because they want to make more money for their crops.  Finally, the industrialists of the EU are complaining that they will become irrelevant if forced to use alternate energy to produce iron and steel.

And so the EU backed off on the whole biofuel initiative, much to the behest of agri-fuel economies such as Brazil who are waiting to export their ethanol excess.  What was supposed to be 10% dedicated to biofuel use and expansion ended up being 6% after the EU voted that at least 4% of this renewable initiative needs to come from electric and hydrogen sources.  There are also tighter restrictions being placed on biofuels to ensure that they will provide a clean alternative to petroleum.  Part of the EU’s transportation initiative is a steady decrease in carbon dioxide emissions, and biofuels themselves must prove that they can be clean enough to fit this demand.  Biofuels must show at 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2015 so that Europe can keep its emissions goals on track.

More numbers from the EU.  While two thirds of the population believes that carbon emissions and energy are major issues, only four in every ten citizens feel that they have the information to help curtail emissions and fight global warming.  Seventy-five percent of the population also stated that they feel that the industries of Europe are not playing fairly and helping out as much as they should.

It is really great to see that the European Union can make a conscious effort to discuss the human impact on climate change and offer serious solutions to the problem, but little discrepancies and changes in plans like this will cost these initiatives credibility.  I support mass government sponsored movements, but they need to hold on to their integrity and stick to their initial plans to set good examples and to make a significant impact.

More on Europe and Alternate Energy:

Europe’s EPA Advises Suspending Biofuel Targets

Perfect Storm INflating Food Prices Worldwide

Brits to Add ‘Eco-Safety’ to Driving Test

Photo courtesy of Inyucho, under Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Data courtesy of Reuters.

Anthony Cefali

Anthony is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in biology as well as English. He became interested in the biofuel initiative after getting a job in the Raines Lab of Petroleum Alternatives at the university turning sugars into biofuels. He is the first to admit that he doesn't fully understand everything that he does or is trying to do, but enjoys doing his bit to help the environment. Anthony has very few plans for his future, but is interested in how natural systems work and how urban development changes these systems. On a good day, Anthony enjoys riding his bike really far away and reading Kurt Vonnegut books.