Still Boondogglin'
Green Europe Moves Against “Green” Biofuels

Brussels put another dagger in the heart of the “green” biofuel industry this week, coming to a preliminary agreement on limiting mandates for crop-based biofuels. Reuters reports:

The European Union reached a tentative deal on Wednesday on a 7 percent limit on how much crop-based biofuel can be used in the transport sector, EU sources said.

The agreement on a legal text, thrashed out by representatives of the European Commission, the parliament and member states follows years of argument on traditional biofuels, which were once seen as environmental, but are now considered to do more harm than good. […]

Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable sources account for at least 10 percent of energy in transport by 2020. But research has shown the damage caused by many crop-based biofuels, such as those from maize and rapeseed. Apart from driving up food prices, using farmland to produce biofuels adds to pressure to free up land through deforestation, which can result in increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Just a few short years ago breathless greens were touting the environmental merits of growing our gas, but the facts have quickly overtaken those claims—and the myriad government subsidy regimes they spawned.

The more you think about it, the less “green” crop-based biofuels appear: They’re often an inefficient and therefore costly way to produce transport fuel; their ability to reduce emissions is dubious at best (in some cases they’ve been shown to actually increase greenhouse gas emissions); they often lead to local environmental damage as farmers eager to take advantage of government support clear-cut their way to unsustainability; and they drive up global food prices, starving the world’s poor.

Europe sees itself as the global leader in green initiatives, and has shown a surprisingly large appetite for unwieldy policies that incentivize anything with an “eco” prefix no matter the cost—and even there biofuels are coming under fire. Meanwhile here in the U.S., we’re dealing with our own biofuel boondoggle. Congress has introduced but failed to pass bills to reform and even repeal the policy mandates keeping our corn ethanol monster alive; here’s to hoping it can learn from its mistakes.

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