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Report: Biofuel is a twin-edged catastrophe

A new report says biofuel causes hunger and harms the environment twice as much as current fuel forms.

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A fresh report from the Danish Actionaid Denmark, Greenpeace and Noah organisations among others suggests that biofuel produced from maize or palm kernels causes two-and-a-half times as much CO2 emissions as traditional fuel.

The report, entitled “Anticipated Indirect Land Use Change Associated with Expanded Use of Biofuels in the EU“, says that increased greenhouse emissions will be the equivalent of an increase of between 12 and 26 million vehicles and mean between 81 percent and 167 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.Palm  kernels - another source of biofuel.

“The result is that the EU’s policy takes food out of the mouths of the world’s starving and puts it in European petrol tanks..... It affects many more than the 925 million people who go to bed hungry each day,” says Actionaid Denmark Chairwoman Trine Pertou Mach.

The EU has decided in its EU renewable energy Directive that over the next decade, the use of biofuel in fuel consumption should increase. The report, however, says that conventional rather than advanced forms of biofuel are envisaged in national plans.

If greenhouse gases from biofuel production are included, emissions in 2020 will have increased from 27 million to 56 million tonnes of CO2 each year, the report says.

“Danish politicians have repeatedly claimed that the existing problems with biofuel use will be eliminated if so-called sustainable biofuels are used. It is now clear that you can’t produce sustainable biofuel on a large scale,” says NOAH Spokeswoman Bente Hessellund and calls on politicians to drop biofuel targets.

The new report has looked at the types and amounts of biofuel that the EU countries themselves have said that they will use, and includes issues such as logging and the displacement of traditional crops in fields to grow biofuel crops.

According to the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), displaced crops will be grown elsewhere, causing new and hitherto unused areas to be brought into arable cultivation.

The report says that the EU’s increased use of biofuel means that the use of some 69,000 square kilometres will be changed to grow biofuel crops.

The Anticipated Indirect Land Use Change Associated with Expanded Use of Biofuels in the EU report was produced by the IEEP and at the request of ActionAid, BirdLife International, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, FERN, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment and Wetlands International.

The IEEP is an independent, non-profit institute for policy analysis, development and dissemination.

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