EU spokesman on energy -questionable definition of biofuel

28/3/2008 Guardian  Article by EU energy spokesman uses questionable definition of biofuel sustainability.  Ferran Tarradellas’ definition is in bold, he says:  You report that leading figures like Professor Robert Watson and Sir David King “have joined the chorus of those calling for a key ‘sustainability’ clause to be introduced to ensure biofuels do not compound the problem by competing for land with staple food crops and speeding up deforestation” (Biofuels: a solution that became part of the problem, March 25).
The article states that Professor Watson said: “It would obviously be insane if we had a policy to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of biofuels that’s actually leading to an increase in the greenhouse gases from biofuels.”  You also report that “the EU is aiming for 10% of power for transport being provided by crops from 2020″. But it is important to mention that the European commission is the leading voice in the “chorus” calling for sustainability criteria - by establishing such criteria for biofuels that can be consumed in the EU.

The new directive for renewable energy sources will call for the promotion of only sustainable biofuels, ie those that save at least 35% CO2 compared to the oil that would be consumed instead.   (Editor:  How many people define ‘sustainable’ as just releasing a third less carbon than oil?)

At the same time the directive will include robust sustainability standards to prevent damaging land-use change and the destruction of rainforests.  The commission strongly disagrees with the assumption that the overall environmental effect of existing biofuel policy is negative. On the contrary, it is delivering significant greenhouse gas reductions compared to oil. Today there are only three ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport: the shift to less polluting and more energy efficient modes of transport (ie rail, sea shipping, public transport); the promotion of less consuming cars through CO2/km targets; and biofuels.  The commission is promoting the first two - with a white paper on transport, and a proposal to limit the CO2 emissions from cars - but biofuels are the most immediately feasible way of significantly slowing the growth of carbon emissions
from transport, which are wiping out the greenhouse reductions in other sectors.
And we should not forget the other benefits of biofuels: to reduce our dependency on imported oil; to provide a development opportunity for poor countries; and to pave the way for second-generation biofuels.  The article failed to mention that, until other technologies such as hydrogen become competitive, the only alternative to biofuels is oil. This means a shrinking source of energy with serious environmental concerns - generating large amounts of CO2 not only when it is burned, but also when it is extracted,
transported and refined. Not only this, but its rapidly increasing price is having a negative impact on our economies; it creates geo-strategic tensions in the areas where it is produced; and it harms developing countries.  We have been burning traditional fossil fuels for years without taking into account all the associated external costs. For some reason, biofuels seem to have become the scapegoat for most of the world’s environmental and social problems. Let’s be fair and objective, and consider the environmental record of
all energy technologies and sources - both fossil and novel ones.· Ferran Tarradellas is energy spokesman for the European commission
[email protected]

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