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June 5, 2008 / Mridul

EU In Dilemma Over Biofuel Policy

By the year 2020 EU wants biofuels to constitute 10 percent of all vehicular fuels but already it is facing hurdles in implementing steps to achieve that goal. With biofuels earning bad name world over the EU member states have been forced to rethink the current biofuel policy. There are calls to look for sustainable biofuel production but the member states haven’t reached any consensus over how the policy should be modified. There have been calls of a complete suspension of the ’10 percent’ goal.

The European Union is now in a dilemma over its biofuel goals. On one side it wants to curb carbon emissions form the millions of vehicles by moving on to a cleaner, less polluting fuel while on the other hand its same policy is drawing criticism for pushing deforestation in developing countries.

UK is the second-biggest importer of palm oil in EU, behind the Netherlands. Since 1995, there has been a 90% increase in palm oil use in the EU and this will rise drastically as companies use palm oil to make biodiesel. [Economic Times]

Stavros Dimas, EU Environment Commissioner, speaks at a press conference on climate change, biofuels and deforestation.

Malaysia and Indonesia are the prime producers of palm oil but it is produced at the cost of millions of acres of rain forests, the same forests which are one of the most important carbon sinks. Same is the case with Brazil with which The Netherlands recently signed an agreement regarding biofuel production & export.

Witnessing the demand from EU nations, Indonesia is now looking to clear up few acres of rain forests in neighboring Papua New Guinea which, it is feared that, would lose nearly half of its forest cover by 2021. These factors in addition to the food crisis is putting pressure on the EU leaders to work out a quick and effective solution to this problem. Senior officials of the EU, US and Brazil however believe that biofuel production has ‘negligible’ effect on food production.

While the developed countries expect the developing countries to cut back on burning the ‘dirty’ fuels and move to cleaner but relatively costly fuels it is pushing them to produce products that degrade the environment and add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is the self-opposing point in EU’s biofuel policy.

The European Union is thinking about setting guidelines to ensure that the environment isn’t adversely affected in its endeavor to achieve its emissions goals. Members call for use of only sustainable biofuels but how can such fuels be produced. If the EU member nations want to achieve the 2020 goal then they might have no other option but to use the current technologies of biofuel production which would mean further degradation of the environment. Biofuel production from farm waste and algae are expensive and still at the research stage making them an viable option in the near future.

The EU now has to choose whether to stay put with its current goal or suspend it until sustainability in biofuel production is assured.

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