Thursday, September 20, 2012

[biofuelwatch] RE: {Agrofuels EU} on bioenergy and has the EC just banned biofuels?


I totally agree with the comments. Obviously the title of blog was meant as a tongue-in-cheek eye-catcher, not a conclusion of the article.  


I think separate legislation on bioenergy for power stations will be a very significant driver for deforestation.


It will be extremely important to push for the real climate (& social & biodiversity) impacts of burning trees to be accounted for.











Kenneth Richter


Land Use, Food and Water Security Programme

Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood Street
London  N1 7JQ
Tel     + 44 20 7566 1671




From: Rachel Smolker []
Sent: 20 September 2012 16:56
Cc: Kenneth Richter;;;; Andrey Laletin
Subject: Re: {Agrofuels EU} on bioenergy and has the EC just banned biofuels?


Thanks SImone, and Kenneth.  Indeed it is worrying especially if there is proposal to provide "double counting:for "non food ligno cellulosic"  - of course there are still a lot of technical problems with making liquid fuels from woody materials, but burning for electricity is no problem and im not sure if that would be accounted for in same manner in this case. If so, will contribute yet more incentive for Europe to burn imported trees.  


It does seem quite dangerous to slice up the bioenergy into "food and non food" for a variety of reasons you mention, Simone, including the fact that forests are also major food source for many.  


Also, more broadly, the role of forests in regulating climate is ever more compromised, and of course one of the first victims of escalating impacts of warming is... food crops, So putting more pressure on forests will only "feedback" on food one way or another. 


In the end, food crops, forests and all products of the land depend on soils and water. Perhaps we should be talking about these things more on that level. 




On Sep 20, 2012, at 11:33 AM, simone lovera wrote:

Dear Kenneth and all,


Thanks for this great analysis, which I also forwarded to some networks in Latin America. Any Spanish translations of analyses like this would be welcome, btw.


Just one question: There is a lot of fear amongst forest campaigners that lowering the percentage of biofuels derived from food will in practice lead to further expansion of bioenergy produced from non-food biomass, including in particular monoculture tree plantations, jatropha and other crops that, amongst others, replace food systems. Increased biomass use will also continue to have a dramatic impact on forests in Europe and other countries, - already there is a notable trend in several European countries to return to old-fashioned clear cutting practices and planting fast-growing tree monocultures to produce enough biomass for the bioenergy industry (and the bio-economy in general). I presume these latest EU proposals do not address this problem at all. The European forestry industry is amongst the biggest promotors of this trend (including at many UN meetings, where they applaud the role of forests in "the green economy" = as biomass production systems for the so-called bio-economy). While small amounts of fuelwood for local consumption can be produced sustainably, large-scale industrial use of wood for bioenergy leads, almost per definition, to serious forest degradation and/or deforestation (/replacement of forests by monocultures of fast-growing trees). We have many examples of that here in South America.


And please note standards and certification systems are not helpful at all in this respect as FSC and other certification bodies have a long tradition of certifying monocultures as if they were forests. 


The impacts of this trend on forest biodiversity and the people that depend on it are simply devastating.


So are we right to be extremely worried about this development? If so, I would really urge European biofuel campaigners to keep in mind the impacts of non-food biofuel on forests as well when they engage in campaign work around this!! The food crisis is one good argument to halt biofuels, but please keep in mind the role of forests in providing food for forest-dependent peoples, and that replacing small-scale agriculture by tree monocultures destroys food sovereignty as well!


Best wishes,






On Sep 20, 2012, at 9:32 AM, einhalden wrote:

Hold on - has the EC just banned biofuels?

There has been a breath-taking series of events happening around biofuel policy in the last week:
The United Nations has demanded that biofuel targets be dropped by G20 countries at their emergency meeting on food prices in October. France and Austria both announced to limit the use of biofuels from crops. On top of that a draft law was leaked from the European Commission that could have far reaching implications for how we tackle climate emissions from road transport. 

Let's have a closer look at this proposal and what it actually means for biofuels. 

This draft text is the long-awaited proposal on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) that the Commission was expected to publish 21 months ago. 

The proposal was meant to stop biofuels that result in higher GHG emissions than fossil fuels due to the emissions from deforestation their expansion causes. Science figures show biofuel from crops like palm oil, soy, and rapeseed could be worse even than driving with normal petrol and diesel. Unfortunately it does that job only partly, but more on that below.

So what's in the proposal?

A 5% cap on biofuels from food crops

This is welcome. For the first time the EC is recognising that there is a conflict between putting food in stomachs and burning food in cars. But it still represents a further increase in biofuel use from current levels. We are still talking about more than 30 billion litres of biofuels. The amount of land needed to meet this demand could otherwise feed more than 200 million people for a year. 

The definition does not include non-food crops that have significant ILUC emissions, e.g. jatropha; one of the main crops implicated in land grabs for biofuels in Africa.

Double and quadruple counting 

Employing some 'creative accounting' for carbon biofuels from municipal waste, and agricultural, fisheries and forestry residues will be counted four times. Double counting for "other waste" and "non-food ligno-cellulosic" materials.

New 60% minimum threshold for emissions savings with immediate effect 

This has been brought forward from 2017. However biofuels from processing plants that are currently in operation will be get an exemption. Since there are enough processing plants built to meet the 10% target, this limit is, in effect, irrelevant on the ground - there is already significant overcapacity of processing plants in Europe. 

ILUC factors

Now, this is what the ILUC proposal was actually meant to bring in two years ago: dealing with ILUC is the primary purpose of this reform. 

But strangely enough ILUC factors are only included in the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), but not in the most relevant part - the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). This is the directive with the infamous 10% target.

This means that under the RED ILUC emissions will not be accounted for and crops like palm oil could still meet minimum sustainability criteria, despite being worse for the climate than fossil fuel. 


The current proposal is inadequate to address ILUC properly and is extremely messy, accounting for ILUC climate emissions in one directive but not in the other.

On the positive side it represents a useful first step in the right direction in this European process that has been stuck for far too long. For the first time the EC has acknowledged that crop-based biofuels are not the way forward for transport policy. 

Needless to say the biofuels industry has already started lobby vigorously against the proposal. 

Now we need to make sure that the EU Commission and member states do not back down, but rather also include ILUC factors in the RED and use this proposal as a starting point to phase out the burning of food in our cars all together. 



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Rachel Smolker

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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