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Q: Should the US Start Taking Green Policy Cues from Europe?


A: When it comes to biofuels, yes, the US should be following Europe’s lead.

Just a handful of days after Europe’s biggest oil companies, Shell and BP, indicated that they are shuttering their advanced biofuels divisions, EU lawmakers took a step toward curbing the continent’s biofuel requirements.

Currently, the EU is planning on sourcing 10 percent of its transport sector energy from renewable sources. Biofuels are expected to do most of the heavy lifting to meet this target, but the lack of commercial production and concerns over the energy source’s green credentials inspired the EU parliament’s environment committee to limit biofuels’ contribution to just 5.5 percent of the 10 percent quota. Reuters reports:

[A] series of studies has underlined the potential environmental damage caused by some biofuels, particularly biodiesel, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the estimated 13 billion euro ($16.71 billion) EU biofuel sector.

Most recently, a study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – the Commission’s in-house research body – confirmed the findings of earlier EU studies that biodiesel made from crops such as rapeseed does more harm to the climate than conventional diesel.

When it comes to green policy, Europe tends to place its starry-eyed environmental idealism above practicality. But give credit where credit is due: if this measure is formally adopted, as experts expect it will be, it will be a win for realism on a continent that has become notorious for its green unicorn hunts.

The US should take heed of European energy policy, for once. Our Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates more production of biofuels than we can produce or consume. We source virtually all of this fuel from corn, which has been shown to raise global food prices (starving the world’s poor) and to do nothing to curb emissions. Two bills are currently wending their way through Congress—one that would eliminate the RFS, and one that would reform it. Either one would be a step in the right direction. Ending the biofuel boondoggle is a global phenomenon, and the US needs to play catch-up.

[Withered corn crop image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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