Monday, January 21, 2008

EC's Joint Research Council criticises biofuel policy.

The European Comission's in-house research agency--the Joint Research Council--has just come out against biofuel expansion in the EU.

"The unpublished working paper by the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission's in-house scientific body, makes uncomfortable reading for the EU's executive body ahead of a meeting Wednesday where it is to detail a plan for biofuels to make up 10 percent of all transport fuels in the EU by 2020."
It looks like the EC are determined to go ahead with a biofuels mandate seperate from a biomass target, despite the fact that biomass can be a more efficient usage of fuel.

"The report concludes that by using the same EU resources of money and biomass, significantly greater greenhouse gas savings could be achieved by imposing only an overall biomass-use target instead of a separate one for transport."
Friends of the Earth and Birdlife International have been perticularly outspoke on EU's seeming inability to change course despite the clear message coming from its own research.

The report gives a clear 'thumbs down' on all three accounts:

  • Greenhouse gas savings: due to the indirect effects of growing biofuels, the JRC concludes that the, "uncertainty is too great to say whether the EU 10 per cent target will save [greenhouse gas emissions] or not". The report highlights that the greenhouse effect of using nitrogen fertilisers is "significantly higher" than previous estimates and that land use changes (e.g. deforestation, draining of peatlands or ploughing grasslands) could potentially release enough greenhouse gas to negate the savings from EU biofuels.
  • Security of supply: the EU would be better to invest in extra storing capacity to create a strategic oil reserve to buffer short term supply shocks rather than invest (much higher sums) in biofuels which would give a limited solution to the problem of insecurity of supply. "There would be a positive effect, but its value is small compared to the costs," the report says.
  • Employment creation: potential job creation risks being little more than wishful thinking as jobs created in the biofuels sector are likely to be offset by job destruction in other sectors affected by the biofuels target. "The net employment effect of the programme would be insignificant," according to the JRC.
  • Cost-benefit analysis: "The costs of using biofuels outweigh the benefits of doing so," the report states. It calculates that, "the decrease in welfare caused by imposing a biofuel target is between 33 and 65 billion euros within an 80 per cent probability range".


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