Study says EU-grown rapeseed biodiesel falls under 35% marker, adding weight to calls to end food biofuels
The growing row over biofuels is ready to flare up again with German researchers claiming to have found evidence that European-produced biodiesel does not meet the sustainability targets claimed by Brussels.
Two experts at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena say eight out of their 10 tests on locally produced rapeseed biodiesel failed to show the 35% greenhouse gas savings promised. In most cases it was under 30%. The use of biofuels would be further undermined when the EU emissions target increases, as planned, to 50% in five years’ time.
Gernot Pehnelt and Christoph Vietze also claim their work has been undermined by a lack of co-operation from the European Union which they believe is on the defensive over championing local energy crops.
“Our results indicate that the ‘sustainability’ of rapeseed biodiesel in the interpretation of the [EU's] renewable energy directive is at best questionable and in most scenarios simply unjustifiable,” said Pehnelt. “What we need is transparency. The European commission hesitates to publish all the background data and promises to come up with new calculations for individual biofuels but they have not come up with any values yet.”
Biofuels are accused by the UN and others of pushing up world food prices, and exacerbating the effect of the most severe drought in the US in half a century. US legislators called on the environmental protection agency this month to waive its ethanol mandate that stipulates 40% of the American corn crop is turned into biodiesel. The US department of agriculture said the corn yield would be the lowest for 17 years, raising grain prices as it means there will be more demand for wheat to be used as animal feed.
José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at the United Nations, said he wanted to see a halt in US government-backed production of corn-based ethanol, which is mixed with petrol to make “greener” fuel, amid fears the world is heading for another food crisis like the one in 2008 that triggered riots.