EU and biofuels: false assumptions guiding policy, say researchers

Researchers at the University of Utrecht and the Trans-National Institute have concluded that the EU is developing its policy on bioduels according to a series of unproven assumptions, many fo which are demonstrably false. Their paper notes that the policy "rests upon arguments about societal benefits of three main kinds – namely, environmental protection (especially greenhouse gas savings), energy security and rural development, especially in the global South." However, these arguments involve "optimistic assumptions about what the putative benefits mean and how they can be fulfilled." The paper examines the assumptions in the light of real world experiences in EU member state Germany, middle-income developing country Brazil, and much poorer Mozambique. Their conclusion is that in every case "the biofuel project encounters various frictions – inadvertent or intentional resistances to be overcome. The EU pro-biofuels policy has elaborated a narrative about several societal problems finding solutions in beneficent biofuels. The policy rests upon arguments about societal benefits of three main kinds – environmental protection, especially GHG savings; energy security through import substitution; and rural development, especially in the global South. Each argument in turn involves several assumptions about what these putative benefits mean and how they can be fulfilled. In major respects, such assumptions are contradicted by practices, experiences and effects."

A the report points out "many activists have warned that biofuel production undermines legal protections of commons and encourages dispossession of rural communities, while government policies downplay negative ecological and human consequences. Environmental and agrarian justice movements converge around arguments that the potential for GHG-savings from biofuels is undermined by their link to the intensive agro-industrial model." Does this mean that activists should oppose biofuels, or should they demand monitored sustainability criteria? Read the report and decide for yourself.