ActionAid has brought attention to the human impacts that a massive shift to biofuels is and will have on the world’s poorest people, pushing up food prices and shoving people off their precious land. Sadly, as we’ve reported in the past, the combination of biofuels used in Europe means that they will also make climate change worse – directly contradicting their aim, and with devastating consequences for poor people who are least able to cope with climatic changes.
How has this been allowed to happen? Well, in order to be classified as a ‘renewable energy source’ biofuels have to lead to at least a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to fossil fuels. At the moment, the 35% is calculated on the basis of emissions from planting, growing, processing and transporting biofuels. Officially, in EU law, rapeseed is said to give 38% savings and therefore narrowly meets the 35% threshold.
The impact of ploughing up land and/or pulling down trees to make way for biofuel crops is not currently taken into account. If it were, then crops used for biodiesel, ie rapeseed, soy and palm oil, would basically not be allowed to be sold as renewable fuels. ActionAid is working in coalition with environmental organisations to make sure EU laws are changed to reflect this impact on land or forests.
But now new research from the Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena in Germany suggests that rapeseed – the EU’s main homegrown biofuel crop – does not meet the 35% cut off, and that’s even without counting land use impacts. European farmers but particularly German farmers have lobbied very hard to ensure that rapeseed – the crop that has turned swathes of land yellow over the last decade – can still be counted as a climate friendly biofuel in Europe.
This new research will be a severe blow to that farming lobby, since it should - if science and logic prevail - lead to rapeseed being ruled out of the future EU biofuel mix.