August 09, 2020

European bioenergy policy may have a major turning point

According to the "New York Times" report, European officials recently proposed to substantially reduce the original goal of increasing biofuel applications. This move is also a complete shift in Europe's biofuels - an important environmental and energy issue.

At the same time, a new report released by the British government also questioned the use of food-made fuel as a means to combat climate change.

Until now, European governments have been working hard to become the world leader in biofuels applications. The goal is that by 2020, 10% of all transport fuels in Europe come from biofuels. However, the charm of this target has receded, and more and more evidence shows that the EU's proposed targets will increase deforestation, thus accelerating climate change and raising food prices.

According to Juan Delgado, who specializes in research on energy and climate change at Brussels-based research institute Breugel, “I believe that when we look back at many years later, we will use this as a European biofuel policy shift. The starting point. Now, it will be very difficult for Europe to adhere to the previously set goals."

In the United States, one quarter of the corn crop is used to make biofuels. An energy bill passed last year requires an average annual production of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022. However, there have been more and more criticisms of the policy, including proposals to end the tax cuts on corn ethanol.

The main reason for the current situation is that in the past 18 months, studies have shown that the current biofuels that use grain crops such as rapeseed, corn and soybeans as raw materials will occupy too much agricultural land and cause food prices to rise. It will also increase forest logging. Once the production and transportation costs are taken into consideration, the impact of biofuels on the climate may be more serious than conventional oil.

Global biofuel production has its own characteristics. The United States mostly uses corn as raw material, Brazil produces from sugar crops, and Europe uses grain and oilseed crops to produce biofuels.

The reversal of the European biofuels policy has recently been strengthened. The strongest signals released by the Energy Ministers indicate that Europe is ready to give up its 10% target. Jochen Homann, State Secretary of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs (Jochen Homann), said: "We must decide whether such a share can be maintained. The goal may have to be adjusted."

Britain, which is the strongest supporter of biofuels, has recently released a new measure. Transport Minister Ruth Kelly cited a newly released report saying that the introduction of biofuels should be slowed down. The report warns that the current goal of biofuel production will lead to an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions and will increase the level of poverty in the poorest countries.

Kelly told the British Parliament: "Given the uncertainty and possible impact of biofuels, the government should adopt a more cautious approach until the evidence of the biofuel environment and social impact becomes clearer."

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee will vote to approve this proposal and submit it to the European Parliament. The major EU countries consider the 4% goal to be appropriate, and before 2015, any goal between 8% and 10% needs careful study.

Delgado said that although the voting results of the European Parliament’s environmental committee are not binding, they will also increase pressure on the European Parliament to urge it to issue an amendment proposal.

In the candidate proposal voted by the Environment Committee, 20% of renewable transport fuel will come from raw materials such as algae, and they will not compete with food crops for farmland. If Europe expands the use of biogas, electricity, or hydrogen-powered cars by 2015, Europe can also achieve its goals. The 20% ratio may increase to 50% by 2020. Countries also need to comply with the rules for environmental and social sustainable development.

The European Commission tried to influence the formulation of global standards for climate change emissions, and changes in the biofuels policy threatened the EU’s purpose. The gradual fading of the brilliance of biofuels will also threaten the target of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The ratio is currently 8.5%.

There are also different opinions on the role of biofuels in rising food prices. Some analysts believe that the reflection on biofuels has been overkill.

The European Commission denied that biofuels replaced other agriculture and pushed up food prices, and stated that it must strictly abide by its 10% target.

Spokesman Michael Mann said rising food prices are caused by increased demand for meat and dairy products, food shortages around the world in two years, speculative activities and restrictions on the export of food commodities by some countries.

New Energy Finance in May said that due to the impact of biofuel policies, grain prices have risen by 8% and oil prices have risen by 17%. The price of sugar crops is minimally affected.