NewEnergyNews: EXPERTS TELL EU TO PUT BIOFUELS ON HOLD

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    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    EXPERTS TELL EU TO PUT BIOFUELS ON HOLD

    As Professor Laszlo Somlyody of Budapest University of Technology and Economics pointed out, the EU should be proud of taking the lead in the fight against global climate change by attempting to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

    Unfortunately, it has rushed ahead with biofuel development only to discover the law of unintended consequences.

    Professor Somlyody: "The starting point was correct: I'm happy that the European Union took the lead in cutting greenhouse gasses and we need to control traffic emissions…But the basic problem is it thought of transport alone, without considering all these other effects. And we don't understand those very well yet."

    Painfully, understanding is growing.

    Example: When rain forests and peat swamp are cleared for biofuel plantations, it causes more emissions than the biofuels can save.

    Example: When food cropland is planted with the more profitable biofuels, drinking water supply is diverted and food crops are reduced. The result: The price of wheat and rice are twice what they were a year ago, and corn is a third higher.

    Example: Food crop biofuels, a.k.a. AGROfuels (biofuels from plant crops such as corn, soy and rapeseed), produce an "ambiguous effect on greenhouse gas emissions" because (1) deforestation and other land use changes generate emissions and (2) the process of converting plants into fuel takes a lot of energy.

    The best use of plant biomass is for heating and power generation, not for transportation. To serve as a vehicle fuel, biomass must be refined, an emissions intensive process, and then transported, another emissions intensive process. As a fuel for heating or power generation, biomass can be used raw or with minimal processing, and used locally.

    Note this: New facts have emerged about biofuels, a European Union advisory panel has called for a change in direction and the European Commission is considering the panel’s call. At the same time, U.S. leaders are ignoring the new facts about biofuels and plunging forward with unbridled enthusiasm. Why is the U.S. oil-and-auto industry so enthusastic about ethanol?


    click to enlarge

    An appeal to slow down on biofuel
    Elisabeth Rosenthal, April 16, 2008 (International Herald Tribune)

    WHO
    Advisory panel to the European Environment Agency (Laszlo Somlyody, panel chairman/professor, Budapest University of Technology and Economics); European Commission of the European Union; UN Food and Agriculture Organization (Henri Josserand, member)

    click to enlarge

    WHAT
    The advisory panel recommended the EC temporarily suspend development of transportation biofuels and take a harder look at its newly declared goals.

    WHEN
    - 2003: The EU aimed for 2% of transportation fuel from biofuel by 2005 and 5.75% by 2010.
    - 2007: The EU set a new goal of getting 10% of its transportation fuel from biofuel by 2020.
    - April 11: The advisory panel called on the EC to suspend the EU biofuels goals.

    click to enlarge

    WHERE
    - In the U.S. and Europe, common food prices are going up.
    - The developed world’s "need" to drive cars is in direct competition with the real need to eat in some of the poorest countries in the world.
    - The panel observed that the biofuels goals put "increasing pressures on soil, water and biodiversity" in Europe and around the world.

    WHY
    - The advisory panel: 20 members, including some of Europe’s most prominent climate scientists. Its advice is nonbonding.
    - Factors other than biofuel goals and subsidies driving high food prices: (1) High oil prices make food transport more costly. (2) Droughts are worsening.
    - Foods from pizza to bread are more expensive because grain supplies and stores shrink and wheat prices rise.
    - Growing biofuels works against prevention of deforestation.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Laszlo Somlyody, panel chairman/professor, Budapest University of Technology and Economics: "The idea was that we felt we needed to slow down, to analyze the issue carefully and then come back at the problem…we need to understand more about biofuels and to integrate these various goals before just moving ahead…"
    - Henri Josserand, Food and Agriculture Organization: "Food price inflation hits the poor hardest, as the share of food in their total expenditures is much higher than that of wealthier populations…"

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