Diverting agricultural land to produce food is pushing up food prices and putting poor communities at risk of land grabs. Don’t take my word for it. The UN, OECD and UK Parliament’s International Development Select Committee say so too.
Meanwhile, European politicians have today recommended that 6.5% of our transport fuel comes from food - much higher than current levels - after being heavily lobbied by the biofuels industry not to put a lower cap on biofuels consumption. The politicians also failed to take action on the climate effects of so-called Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), which means that producing biofuels might actually be worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they were meant to replace.
The biofuels industry has kept busy in the last few weeks, scaremongering about the potential impacts on their profits of regulating the environmental and food price effects of biofuels consumption.
Politicians from Brussels to London (via Berlin and Athens and every other European capital) have been told that if we actually account for all the greenhouse gas emitted from biofuels and stop using the ones that are worse for the climate than fossil fuels, we might lose thousands of jobs.
They have also said that if we cap the amount of food we use as fuel at 5% of total transport fuel consumption (as suggested by the European Commission), politicians will stick a knife in the heart of an industry creating jobs in a time of recession and mass unemployment.
The fact that this industry has so far been unprofitable (notwithstanding subsidies) and receives billions of euros in financial incentives each year across Europe is quietly forgotten, as is the fact that only about 3,500-4,000 people are directly employed in the production of biofuels in the EU.
Politicians have become so scared by the industry’s scare-mongering that dirty deals now seem to be struck behind the scenes between political forces in Europe to protect the biofuels industry with little or no long-term concern for what the impact on climate change and food prices are of those deals.
The latest deals between a broad political spectrum in the European Parliament’s industry and energy, transport and international trade committees is a 6.5% cap on food-based fuel.
They are also rejecting best available science on ILUC factors, meaning that lots of greenhouse gases will go unaccounted for and we will risk using biofuels that are worse for the climate than fossil fuels.
It must be hard being a politician. You get lobbied from left, right and centre (literally!) and striking a balance must be hard. But when it comes to biofuels, it seems most politicians are currently happy to trade off climate change and food security for some short-term over-subsidised jobs.
We all know we need to move away from fossil fuel both for the climate’s sake and to improve our energy security in the future. Unfortunately, using food-based biofuels isn’t the solution to this problem.
Isn’t it time for our elected political representatives – both in Brussels and in capitals around Europe – to take a long-term perspective and put in place biofuels policies that ensure no negative food price impacts or additional greenhouse gas emissions?