Thursday, 11 July 2013

MEPs to vote on biofuels as study points to hunger, deforestation

A new study released by Friends of the Earth, and drafted by Tim Searchinger, a Princeton University research scholar and biofuels expert, shows that the existing modelling data used by the European Union to establish the effects of "indirect land use change (ILUC)" caused by growing fuel crops is faulted.
In practice, he shows that when agricultural land that had been used to grow food is given over to growing biofuels, someone somewhere will go hungry - unless previously uncultivated land is taken to grow the displaced food, or yields from existing crops increase commensurately.
But “there is extremely little evidence that you will get additional yield gains,” Searchinger said. Searchinger’s reading of one key report produced for the EU by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that of every 100 calories from wheat or maize diverted to food tanks by bioethanol production, 25 calories were not replaced.  
“If you step back, take the broader view and see that people are going to have to produce 60% more food by 2050 [to feed a growing world population] that we’re not going to be able to feed entirely from yield gain, biofuels will just compound that problem,” the author pointed out.

This study comes on the heels of a vote by the European Parliament’s (EP) environment committee on a proposal to curb EU support for biofuels, expected for 11th of July. In the committee, there are intentions to augment a proposed 5% cap on ‘first generation’ biofuels’ share of the 2020 transport mix.
After the vote, this proposal will go to a plenary session on 10 September, before final negotiations with member states begin.
Previously, projections that feedstock-based biofuels would indirectly cause net greenhouse gas emissions had been confirmed by preliminary results from two studies of past land use change, co-authored by the EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency (PBL) and Koen Overmars, an independent Dutch consultancy.

Source: EurActiv