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Biofuels little help on climate change says EU study

14th May, 2010

A study undertaken by the European Commission into the potential for biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport has found that reductions can be made as long as biofuels are produced in small quantities, but after a certain point, the indirect effects of growing biofuel crops cause galloping increases in emissions.

The findings help put the concept of ‘indirect land-use change’ on the EU’s political map, and further question the viability of the EU’s 10% renewable fuels target for transport.

The Commission’s trade department has looked at the unintended consequences of biofuels production. It says greenhouse gas savings are genuine where biofuel crops can be grown on ‘spare land’. But beyond a certain ‘tipping point’, such available land is used up, so future crops have to be grown on forest, grassland or peatlands, thereby leading to an indirect increase in climate-changing emissions.

The study does not identify this tipping point, but its other findings suggest it is around 5%. It says a rise in biofuels use from 4.6% to 6.6% would ‘increase sharply the average emissions’.

For the full article (and other items on the european scene) see ‘Transport and Environment’ newsletter.