Biofuelling the war

Lucy Hurn's picture
Lucy Hurn Biofuels Campaign Manager

Just when I thought that biofuels couldn’t go any lower, I read that the US Navy is testing powering its drones – the unmanned aircraft it uses for surveillance and combat – with a 50:50 biofuel and jet fuel mix.

So now, not only are biofuels bad for people - forcing communities off their land to make way for plantations where they are grown and driving up food prices as land is diverted from growing food to make way for biofuel crops. And bad for business through driving up the cost of fuel. And bad for the environment, diverting attention from true solutions to climate change whilst actually driving up emissions.

But they are also helping fuel weapons of war, the only good of which could be to finally dispel the myth that biofuels are an ethical choice.

Not only is the policy of pursuing biofuels damaging to the environment and people but it is also misguided.

The US Navy plans to ensure a third of its fuel use (including drones, ships and planes) comes from biofuels by 2020. In the short term this may seem like a good idea for the US - it diversifies the Navy’s fuel sources, decreasing its dependence on imported fuel, and raises the potential of actually sourcing fuel in the areas where they are operating, rather than having to import fuel via convoys into combat zones at great cost and risk.

But in the long term it raises serious concerns. The US Navy is a massive user of fuel – it is predicting using a million barrels of biofuels a year by 2020 – and on current predictions, especially when combined with other biofuels targets and world food production needs, there simply isn’t enough land to meet this demand without hugely damaging impacts on rural communities in poor countries.

The US Navy is not alone in its drive to replace conventional fuel with biofuels.  The EU aims to get 10% of its transport fuel from renewables (which largely means biofuels) by 2020. And whilst there’s little most of us can do to influence US Navy policy, signing our petition asking the UK government and European Commission to end their support for biofuels, could have a real impact on the EU target.