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A Global Boondoggle
Will Brussels Fix its Broken Biofuels Policy?

The European Union is considering a proposal to cut in half the amount of crop-based biofuels it blends into transportation fuel, according to Reuters:

According to the European Commission’s proposal, the maximum contribution from liquid biofuels to the EU renewable energy target should fall to 3.8 percent in 2030 from 7 percent in 2021. At the same time, the Commission is proposing an increase in the level of so-called advanced, or second-generation, biofuels made from waste coming from agriculture or forestry industries.

Making the switch from first- to second-generation biofuels isn’t just a matter of pursuing the most technologically advanced option, it’s the difference between enforcing a policy that does nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions (and in fact may actually increase them) and actually doing what policymakers so often claim biofuels are capable of: mitigating climate change. Reuters continues:

“Biodiesel from virgin vegetable oil leads to around 80 percent higher emissions than the fossil diesel it replaces,” Brussels-based Transport and Environment said. “Biodiesel should be phased out well before 2030 given its devastating impacts on the world’s climate and tropical forests.”

The EU is no stranger to strange (some might even say foolish) environmental policies, but it’s worth paying attention to what happens across the pond in this instance because Washington is even farther down this dead-end road than Brussels is. Here in the United States, corn-based ethanol is propped up by federal mandates that seem to have settled into that rare policy sour spot, upsetting virtually every stakeholder you can think of (besides, of course, corn farmers). Our biofuel boondoggle: raises global food prices, starving the world’s poor; raises gas prices, fleecing American drivers; encourages shady strategies from Wall Street investors looking to make a quick buck on an ill-considered government program; and may actually harm the environment.

So let’s hope Brussels starts walking back some of its own first-generation biofuels policies, but while we’re at it, let’s tackle the even bigger problem in our own backyard.

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  • Blackbeard

    I assume that by “second generation biofuels” the Europeans are referring to what is more generally called cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol would indeed solve many of the problems of food-based biofuels as indeed, as the article states, it can be made from agricultural waste products such as corn husks, etc.

    Except that no one has ever gotten cellulosic ethanol to work at other than a laboratory or pilot scale. Every commercial project has failed and the major energy companies have abandoned it.

    More environmentalist pie in the sky.

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