EU Rethinks Biofuels
The ever-evolving dilemma of climate change has put an incredible strain on scientists and politicians to navigate ‘a way out of this.’ Europe and its leaders have largely been at the forefront of adapting new means to approach our finite resources – North America and the Far East, by contrast, are seemingly always looking for ways to avoid stringent new measures to cap . The reasons for this delay are partly technological, but mainly financial and constituency-related: don’t rock the boat, there’s an election approaching.
Biofuels are an example of what only a few years ago, were heralded to be a significant breakthrough in managing our population’s fuel needs responsibly. But now the scientific community and policymakers are turning away from this idea of specific crops being grown for fuel – the side effects, it seems, are too detrimental. Once again, Europe is taking the lead on this volte-face, and establishing new regulatory caps on what percentage of renewable energy for transportation can come from biofuels, now deemed 5%.
The problem with raising crops for biofuel is something that is now more apparent than when the idea first was embraced – clearing forests to raise crops to offset the negative effects of clearing forests and the use of fossil fuels is self-defeating. And now, with global food prices on the rise (this will only continue in the future), land devoted to biofuels makes feeding the poor very difficult. Of course institutions like Oxfam believe that the EU’s cap is not going far enough, but the good news is that this has fairly quickly (in political terms) been recognized as a problem, and is being addressed. The BBC reported recently that the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, summed up the new policy approach succinctly, “We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food…We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels.” Once again Europe is in the lead.