Commission ‘Dangerously’ Out of Touch with Reality on Biofuels
by Dick Roche (EurActiv/Pannonia Ethanol) A response delivered by Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete in the European Parliament last week demonstrates just how dangerously out of touch with reality the executive is on a policy that impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of EU citizens, writes Dick Roche.
A senior Commission staffer admitted that the EU executive’s biofuels policy was being formed on the basis of bureaucrats’ interpretation of public opinion rather than facts and science. This prompted Romanian independent MEP Laurentiy Rebega (ENF) to file a parliamentary question with the Commission in September.
Rebega pointed out that “peer-reviewed economic analysis suggests that Romania has a huge unrealised capacity as a producer of bioethanol which if realised fully, could produce tens of thousands of jobs, produce up to 18 billion litres of ethanol and add very significantly to Romania’s GDP”. He asked, “Has the Commission carried out any assessment as to the impact of its post-2020 proposals on Romania’s potential in this area, and in particular of the proposals’ impact on job potential and on potential farm income?” Rebega requested that the Commission “publish its calculations on both areas and outline the methodology used to reach its conclusions”.
In a response given on 25 November, Commissioner Cañete said that “the Commission intends to adopt a package of energy from renewable sources by the end of 2016, including proposals for the revision of the Directive on renewable energy and policy regarding the sustainability of bioenergy for the period after 2020”.
Cañete continued, “the Commission has already indicated that biofuels based on food crops have a limited role in decarbonising the transport sector and that they should not receive public support after 2020″.
The statements by the Commission official which prompted the parliamentary question made it clear that the Commission intends to ignore “economic models and scientific theories” and that “policy would be based on the Commission’s interpretation of citizens’ concerns, sometimes even if these concerns are emotive rather than factual based or scientific”.
For good measure, the Commission official added that in the Commission’s view, the first concern is a purely emotive reaction to “food versus fuel”.
Coming as it did a year after the FAO Director-General had called for a paradigm shift in the debate on food production, suggesting that “We need to move from the food versus fuel debate to a food and fuel debate,” the Commission’s position is all the more disturbing.
The study, (Producing Fuel and Feeds) which is lucid, fact based and logical, provides the latest evidence as to just how grotesquely inadequate the undifferentiated approach to biofuels that the Commission has pressing is. It also provides another debunking of the myths on food versus fuel which EU bureaucrats seem intent on propagating.
Its key findings are that:
- Claims that EU sourced biofuel production has caused either food price rises or reduced global food supply are false.
- EU biofuel production has contributed to global food security,
- The EU has increased its export capacity for cereals by 10 million tonnes during the study period.
- EU biofuel production has reduced the EU demand for imported protein soy feed by producing 13 million tonnes of high protein non-GMO animal feed.
- Biofuel production has made a positive contribution to a key CAP objective of keeping land in good agricultural status in order to maintain the potential of EU agriculture. Without the biofuel industry, increasing amounts of land would be lost to agriculture.
- Shows the need for a clear distinction between EU-sourced biofuels– and biofuels made from imported palm oil and imported “waste oils”.
- Finds that biofuels made from imported palm oil have highly damaging impacts on the climate and environment while EU-sourced biofuels have clearly positive climate, environmental and economic impacts.
- Biofuels helped to secure farm income of € 5-7 billion, led to very significant investment in rural regions and supported 300.000 jobs.