Food and Fuel: Back on the Table
by Robert Vierhout (ePURE/Ethanol Producer Magazine) …Other favorite critics such as Oxfam also see the present situation as a new opportunity to slam the EU biofuel policy. The head of the EU office crucifies the policy in a July 16 article for the Financial Times. She indirectly blames the EU biofuel policy for the recent impeachment of the Paraguay president. She links conflicts over redistribution of land to the production of soy for EU biodiesel production. Soybeans are exported from Paraguay to Argentina and the oil is shipped to Europe. Knowing that soyoil is a coproduct of soymeal, the causality seems farfetched.
Closer to the truth, the EU is importing high volumes of meal to feed animals, that, by the way, can be almost entirely replaced by distillers grains from EU-produced wheat ethanol. So more EU ethanol means less need to import soy meal and, hence, less soy to grow in South America.
It’s an easy way to reduce land use. But, to acknowledge this or address the issue of large soymeal imports is not the preferred political message. Suggesting there are good biofuels, and addressing eating habits, is a too slippery slope. So, let’s keep it simple, let’s blame it all on biofuel.
For me, such criticisms are a symptom of opportunism, hypocrisy and reaction.
The problems cited above cannot be resolved by abolishing the EU biofuel policy; that would be pure political symbolism without any structural impact. What is needed is a set of policies that address the root causes of the volatility in commodity prices and alleviate its effects, including stricter urban planning and controlled urbanization, more investment in agriculture and innovative farming practices, and building strategic reserves of grain to keep prices in balance as is done with crude oil, to name just a few.
Land abuse could be easily addressed, too. The mandatory use of biofuels in the EU resulted in a strict set of mandatory sustainability criteria. Why not add criteria that would make it impossible to import biofuels that have been produced at the expensive of land grabbing? READ MORE