“Questions About Biofuels’ Environmental Costs Could Alter Europe’s Policies” -NYT

A recent tip from a leading European farm official has said that there are European Commission studies, yet to be released, that when made public may demolish currently subsidized biofuels by revealing their total environmental impact. The implications are not good for the European biofuel world and suggest a “retreat” from biofuel friendly policies; such policies keep biofuel companies afloat and are vital for their function and survival. The reasoning is logical: government subsidies were provided to support biofuels with the notion that they are more green than fossil-based products, however now that that is in question, so are the policies.

The current policy in Europe considers subsidies only for biofuels that reduce GHG emissions by 35% as compared to fossil fuels. Biofuels that meet this criterion are thought to have movement towards the European Union’s (E.U.)goals. Although this criterion is not directly changing, the commission has been investigating the effects of indirect land use change on GHG emissions, and may have to reconsider which biofuels still meet the 35% threshold.  This creates many problems for biofuel companies in the E.U. because it is believed that most of their crops will exceed what is considered beneficial. Some argue that this is the point of the study; that money should be allocated elsewhere and not for biofuels. Studies of this kind are extremely controversial because the release of the commission’s findings could easily bankrupt and destroy biofuels in the E.U. In addition, there are those who simply refuse to accept such studies and claim that the negative effects from indirect-land use are yet to be proven. A third controversy would be to simply withhold the study. I mean if they commission discovered that biofuels were negatively efficient and withheld information our efforts to go green are in reverse. Overall I think the article has even larger implications on global biofuel policy and it will be interesting to see what happens.


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