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Biofuels: The impact of indirect land-use change

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Wednesday, 04 September 2013

Biofuels: The impact of indirect land-use change

Taking into consideration the indirect land-use change emissions (known as ILUC) of traditional biofuels is the best available option to reduce negative environmental impacts, Chris Malins, expert from the nonprofit organization “International Council on Clean Transportation,” writes for EurActiv.
On 11th July, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of accounting for scientifically proven indirect land-use change emissions. Also, at the full plenary session of the European Parliament, taking place on 11-12 September in Strasbourg, a proposal to cap traditional biofuel production and accelerate the switchover to a new generation of products from other sources, such as seaweed and or certain types of waste will be put to a plenary vote.
According to the European Union states’ National Renewable Energy Action Plans, leaving the continent’s biofuels policy unchanged will result in 25 million tonnes of biodiesel from vegetable oil, and about 10 million tonnes of ethanol from sugar and grain, being consumed annually in Europe by 2020.
This policy based on the EU’s renewable energy and fuel quality directives ought to reduce carbon emissions from European transport by at least 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The directives contain a rule that each litre of biofuel should reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared to fossil fuels. This implies a cost of around €250 per tonne of carbon dioxide abated, based on the cost estimate in the UK transport ministry’s impact assessment for the Fuel Quality Directive.   
Unfortunately, producing tens of millions of tonnes of biofuel requires a large increase in agricultural output, or a correspondingly large reduction in the amount of food people eat, said Malins. He also points out that clearing land to expand agricultural production will cause the loss of carbon stored in the soil and in biomass on the land, emitted as carbon dioxide.

Source: EurActiv