Tell the EU to drop biofuels!

Illustration: a car chewing its way through the rainforest Rainforests and their inhabitants are being sacrificed for palm oil in biofuels. (© Rettet den Regenwald)

Every liter of fuel we put in our cars contains a percentage of biofuel as mandated by the EU. Producing these fuels has a huge impact on the environment, with oil palm plantations in Indonesia going as far as to poison foraging elephants. The EU is currently reviewing its biofuels policy – now is the time to call for a ban.

Call to action

To: The European Commission, Parliament, Council of Ministers and the governments of the 28 Member States

Biofuels are a tragically misguided idea. Ban their production and use immediately.

Read letter

On January 17, 2018, the European Parliament will be voting on its bioenergy policy for the years up to 2030.

In 2016, motor vehicles in the 28 Member States used 22 billion liters of biofuel. According to the plans of the European Commission, food crops converted into ethanol and biodiesel will continue to end up in our fuel tanks.

Studies made on behalf of the European Commission warn that the production and use of palm oil biodiesel results in three times the carbon emissions of fossil diesel. Biodiesel from rapeseed and soya also has a larger carbon footprint than fossil diesel.

8.8 million hectares – an area larger than the entire island of Ireland – is needed to satisfy the EU’s demand for biofuel. Two thirds of that cultivated area is outside the EU, however. According to a study produced for the European Commission, 2.1 million hectares of palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia are dedicated to the production of biodiesel for the EU.

Establishing those palm oil plantations costs orangutans, tigers and rhinos their habitat. Elephants foraging there are often poisoned: The most recent case was a pregnant Sumatran elephant that was found dead on a palm oil plantation in late December. 

In 2017, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to stop imports of palm oil and the production of biofuel from tropical vegetable oils. It called on the European Commission to outlaw the use of palm oil for biofuels by 2020 at the latest.

We now have an opportunity to stop the disastrous effects of biofuels. The European Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers are currently debating the future of bioenergy in the EU for the years leading up to 2030. Please sign our petition calling on the EU to scrap its tragically misguided biofuels policy.

Back­ground

Figures on the production and consumption of conventional biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester, FAME) and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO diesel), as well as ethanol in the EU’s transportation sector

1. Biodiesel (FAME) and HVO diesel in the EU, in billions of liters in 2016:
Production: 14.7
of which HVO diesel: 2.4
Consumption: 14.9

Raw materials for FAME and HVO diesel in millions of tons in 2016:
Rapeseed oil: 6.1
Palm oil: 2.4
Used cooking oil (UCO): 2.4
Animal fat: 1.1
Soya oil: 0.6
Other oils (tall oil, fatty acids): 0.4
Sunflower oil: 0.01
Other vegetable oils: 0.3

2. Ethanol in the EU, in billions of liters in 2016:
Production: 6.0
Consumption: 6.8

Raw materials for ethanol in millions of tons in 2016:
Sugar beet: 8.8
Corn: 5.4
Wheat: 4.0
Triticale (a wheat-rye hybrid): 0.7
Rye: 0.6
Barley: 0.5
Cellulose (wood, etc.): 0.2

Source: USDA, 6-2017: EU Biofuels Annual 2017 

Further information:

Cerology, Sept. 2017: Thought for food - A review of the interaction between biofuel consumption and food markets 

Letter

To: The European Commission, Parliament, Council of Ministers and the governments of the 28 Member States

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every year, the Member States of the EU consume around 22 billion liters of biofuel for transport. Considering the millions of people suffering from hunger or malnutrition, the use of foods such as vegetable oils, corn and wheat to produce fuel is highly inappropriate.

The vast space requirements of dedicated energy crop monocultures are displacing food crops and leading to the destruction of irreplaceable ecosystems.

Palm oil imports have a particularly grave impact in this regard: Industrial oil palm plantations are spreading at the expense of natural ecosystems, destroying biodiversity and robbing rainforest inhabitants of their livelihoods.

Furthermore, the climate benefits of biofuels are a fallacy: studies produced on behalf of the European Commission have concluded that the production and use of palm oil biodiesel results in three times the carbon emissions of fossil diesel. The climate footprints of soya and rapeseed oil also compare unfavorably with fossil fuel.

Environmentalists, human rights activists, scientists, development experts, international organizations such as the United Nations and OECD, as well as thousands of citizens from around the world, are calling on the EU to end its tragically misguided biofuels policy.

Yours faithfully,

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