New Study Relaunches Controversy about Biofuels and Food Prices
by Sarantis Michalopoulos (Euractiv) A new study commissioned by environmental NGOs found that the production of first generation biofuels has driven up food prices in Europe, running counter to the European Commission’s own data which found the impact of ethanol “negligible”.
The NGOs generally lump all crop-based biofuels together and are pressuring the Commission to completely ban them after 2020, arguing that the future lies exclusively in so-called advanced biofuels.
On the other hand, the ethanol industry has long called for a system to differentiate between biofuels based on sustainability criteria, claiming that Europe should focus on phasing out fossil fuels as well as biofuels that compete with food crops and drive deforestation, such as palm oil.
Biofuels that have high greenhouse gas savings and low risk of indirect land use change such as ethanol should be protected, ethanol producers claim.
But environmental NGOs insist that all crop-based biofuels negatively affect food prices.
A new study published on 15 September and conducted by consultancy Cerulogy for the NGOs BirdLife and Transport & Environment, claims that increasing demand for crop-based biofuels has resulted in increased food prices.
The consultancy reviewed over 100 economic modelling studies of the impact on food prices because of increased demand for biofuels made from food crops.
According to the study, the rising demand for biodiesel had the highest price impact on vegetable oils in the EU such as rapeseed, palm oil, soy and sunflower, driving a 171% increase in prices in the EU per exajoule (EJ) of biodiesel produced.
In addition, the report found that EU oilseeds saw 25% higher prices.
As far as ethanol is concerned, the report also pointed out that it had a significant impact “with wheat ethanol increasing global wheat prices by 20% per EJ and sugar-based ethanol increasing the world’s sugar prices by about 40% per EJ”.
Contacted by EURACTIV, Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary-Generalof the European renewable energy association (ePURE), questioned the results of the study, claiming that the truth is far different.
“The real-world experience on this issue is clear: during the past ten years as biofuels production has gone up, global food prices have come down 20%,” he stated, adding that a 2017 Commission report clearly confirmed that.
“EU ethanol uses only a minuscule 2% of EU grain production, and every tonne of grain used by the ethanol industry produces as much high-protein animal feed as it does low-carbon fuel,” he said.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) seems to agree with this argument.
However, the findings of this new report regarding ethanol are in contrast with data recently published by the European Commission.
Over 100 scientific studies confirm biofuels policies increase food prices – study (Transport & Environment)