A new report released by the EU Commission has questioned the sustainability of first-generation biofuels, arguing that a full account of the energy and emissions associated with the production and use of the fuel shows that the cost of biofuels far exceeds their benefits, and would mean an effective carbon cost of between 100 and 300 euros for each tonne of greenhouse emission abatement achieved.
The research, recently released by the EU, attempts to incorporate the full picture of emissions associated with biofuel production, including those associated with growing the required crops to produce the feedstock.
One of the authors of the report made some interesting comments about EU biofuels policy, which involves a 10% renewable energy target by 2020.
“The truth is that policy makers inside and outside Europe are doing biofuels for other reasons than environmental ones,” said David Laborde, a leading agricultural scientist and author of key biofuels reports for the European Commission.
“It’s a new and easy way to give subsidies to farmers, and it’s also linked to industrial lobbies that produce these biodiesels, and also what they will call energy security,” he told EurActiv.
“They want to diversify the energy supply, and keep their foreign currencies instead of buying oil from the Middle East. They prefer to keep it for something even if it is not efficient or even green,” he added
The peak body of European farmers (Copa-Cogeca) criticised the report, arguing that the landuse change assumptions included in it for biodiesel production were not appropriate.
If nothing else, the report and the resulting arguments highlight how fragile the methodology is that is used to estimate the carbon footprint of different products, something that Tesco Supermarkets in the UK discovered, after bravely committing to put a carbon footprint label on their products, and then having to abandon the effort.