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The EEA's Scientific Committee wants to suspend Europe's 10% biofuels target

The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) Scientific Committee yesterday called for the suspension of EU’s target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020. The committee calls for a new, “comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels” before any targets should be set.

The committees concerns are summarised below:

Biofuel production based on first generation technologies does not optimally use biomass resources with regard to fossil energy saving and to greenhouse gas reduction. Technologies for direct heat and electricity generation should be preferred because they are more economically competitive and more environmentally effective than biofuel production for vehicles.

Biomass utilisation implies combustion of very valuable and finite resources from our living environment. These resources ought to be preserved wherever possible. Therefore biomass utilisation must necessarily go hand in hand with energy efficiency improvements. This is not yet the case for the majority of applications in the automotive and residential sectors.

The EEA has estimated the amount of available arable land for bioenergy production without harming the environment in the EU (EEA Report No 7/2006). In the view of the EEA Scientific Committee the land required to meet the 10 % target exceeds this available land area even if a considerable contribution of second generation fuels is assumed. The consequences of the intensification of biofuel production are thus increasing pressures on soil, water and biodiversity.

The 10 % target will require large amounts of additional imports of biofuels. The accelerated destruction of rain forests due to increasing biofuel production can already be witnessed in some developing countries. Sustainable production outside Europe is difficult to achieve and to monitor.

The overambitious 10 % biofuel target is an experiment, whose unintended effects are difficult to predict and difficult to control. Therefore the Scientific Committee recommends suspending the 10 % goal; carrying out a new, comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels; and setting a new and more moderate long-term target, if sustainability cannot be guaranteed.

The European Environment Agency’s Scientific Committee consists of 20 independent scientists from 15 different EEA member countries. The committee helps the EEA Management Board and the Executive Director by “providing scientific advice and delivering professional opinions on any scientific matter” that the EEA might undertake.

The EEA is located in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. EEA currently consists of 27 EU member states, 3 European Economic Area members (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), Switzerland and Turkey.

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