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Bio Fuels- cure worse than the disease 12.09.07

You can’t eat this stuff

Friends of the Earth called on the EU to scrap its ten per cent target for using plant-based bio-fuels for transport, after a leaked paper revealed that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD’s has grave concerns about their social and environmental effects.

The report appears as a background document ahead of the Roundtable on Sustainable Development, which European Ministers are due to attend.The report raises numerous concerns, including:

- The environmental impact of biofuels can be even worse than that of petrol and diesel;

- Natural forests, wetlands and pasture land will be replaced with dedicated crops grown for energy

- Large scale expansion of biofuels will significantly impact on the wider global economy;

- Food will get increasingly expensive for at least the next ten years.

Within the background document are two critical recommendations:

- Governments are failing to respond to the growing concerns about biofuels. They should not create new mandates for agrofuels and should instead phase out their current support;

- More attention should be focused on reducing energy demand and improving vehicle efficiency, as this will cost less than subsidising inefficient new sources of supply such as biofuels.

This report follows on the back of the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook - 2007-2016 whoich was published in June this year. The Outlook clearly shows that the increased demand for food, particularly in Asia, combined with the amount of agricultural land being converted from food to bio fuels will force higher food prices around the world.

European Heads of State agreed in March this year to a target that 10 percent of transport fuels should be met by plant-based biofuels by 2020. The target however is conditional on biofuels being produced sustainably and also on the successful commercialisation of so-called ’second generation fuels’, which are produced by converting biomass to liquid. The OECD paper questions whether either are possible.

Friends of the Earth Biofuels Campaigner, Ed Matthew said: "Rushing down the biofuels route will be a huge mistake. The OECD is the latest respected organisation to warn about the social and environmental risks associated with this technology. The EU must abandon its ten per cent biofuels target or risk further destruction and poverty in developing countries. We must cut transport emissions by forcing manufacturers to develop far more fuel-efficient vehicles, abandoning airport expansion, and making it cheaper and easier for people to use public transport, rather than falsely promoting biofuels as a pain-free solution to global warming."

Peter Shield

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