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Biofuels and the European Environment

by Colman Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 05:53:55 AM EST

The EEA is optimistic about the potential for bio-fuels in Europe but worried about the effects of bio-fuel production on the environment if it's not managed properly.

Europe can produce sufficient bioenergy to meet its renewable energy target without harming the environment. However, this requires an appropriate policy framework according to the new EEA report entitled, 'How much bioenergy can Europe produce without harming the environment?' released today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Biomass - organic matter that can be used to create electricity, heat and fuel for transport - currently provides two thirds of the renewable energy produced in Europe today. On the other hand, if badly managed, increased production of bioenergy may intensify farming and forestry, impacting upon biodiversity and soil and water resources.

The EEA has developed a number of environmental criteria to minimise additional environmental pressures from bioenergy production. Based on these criteria, the environmentally-compatible bioenergy potential for the EU-25 for 2010, 2020 and 2030 has been calculated.

The report, which did not analyse costs and logistics, finds that Europe could actually produce 190 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) of bioenergy, in an environmentally viable fashion, by 2010. This could reach almost 300 Mtoe by 2030.

However, it is crucial that Europe manages any proposed rise in the production of biomass in line with other community policies and objectives aiming to protect biodiversity and reduce waste. The report calls for the implementation of environmental guidelines at local, national and European level to achieve this.

There are also possibilities for synergies between the large scale production of bioenergy and the environment. For example, innovative bioenergy crops such as perennial grasses as well as short rotation forestry can combine high yields with relatively low environmental pressures. They can even be beneficial as they add to the diversity of landscapes, the report says.

I haven't had time to do more than briefly scan the report, but it looks interesting.


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Now, where are the naysayers?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:15:53 AM EST
Coming right up <quickly puts his shirt on and runs to keyboard>.

I am skeptical as to the amount of arable land that can be affected to biofuel mass growth. If people keep on eating so much meat, and if fossil-fuel based fertilizer quantities dwindle, there simply won't be enough land.

Just doin' ma job.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:22:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think we can keep eating so much meat anyway, though I'm not with the ban-it-all crowd. I'd much rather see people eating meat products a few times a week at most and paying a lot more for sustainably farmed and humanely husbanded produce.

And why does everyone buy into the necessity for fossil fuel based fertilisers to support high crop yields? They only enable cheap high crop yields.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:25:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or to put it another way: it not a matter of enough food, its a matter of dirt cheap food.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm certain (but too lazy to point you to Jancovici's website) that organic produce has lower yields than non-organic. Using Jancovici's definition of organic in France: "that do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides".

He argues that because of this, if we reduce meat consumption by 27%, we can go all-organic on the entire territory.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:32:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Has to have or has?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:34:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not informed enough to answer that, but I do get the feeling that our man at manicore.com (Jancovici) means "has". Which does leave an open door for the future (if agricultural research funds are massively reoriented towards studying organic production methods).
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:37:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyhow you raise a good point. And I'm just naysaying because you asked me too ;)

Ok got to go now.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 06:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman, I thought the whole point of fertilizers was to increase yield.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't have to be fossil fuel based.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:36:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you reduce your options you reduce your maximum.

The issue is that yield is not the only factor we should worry about. Multiple competing criteria => pareto optimality => indifference surfaces => non-unique solutions => political decisions.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:41:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I saw recently that 20% of corn production in the US is already used to make ethanol - and that provides 1% or so (or less) of fuel used.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:21:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And what proportion of the fuel used is used to grow [and process] the corn?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:32:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well then let's cut down on meat consumption!

30 years of veganism, and i feel better than ever!

less cancer is a Good Thing, whether from less nukes or more veggies.

no-brainer...

no need for so much meat, (or cancer).

governments have known this for ever, they're just paid off by bigbiz.

suckz...

remeber the mcgovern senate report back in the late seventies?

they basically came out saying this, that animal products are directly causative of cancer, and within days the meat board, the egg board, the milk board had the report squelched.

love those junkfood/pharma profits too..

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 10:47:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is indeed an inspiring report.
But I think reality is somewhat different.
Here some points out of my memory, (for the moment no time to look up for links and related reports).
  • Near my home-town there is a oil producing (for food-industry) factory. The raw materials (soya, copra, palmpits and others) are imported in bulk from all over the world.
  • This factory, part of a multi-national, discoverd the 'hole in the marked': raising demand for bio-fuel.
  • There is next to none local production of raw materials (now there is a beginning for colza)
  • Result : they are setting up production and distribution facilities , but all based on mass-import for the raw material.
  • Exporting country's for soya,etcetra... see their markets grow and more arrable land is needed: more rainforest dissapears (Brazil, Indonesia...)

My conclusion : this bio-fuel thing can easely lead to even a bigger disaster.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 07:41:33 AM EST
but very good point.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 07:43:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Canard Enchainé had a story this week about a local cooperative that was sentenced for using biofuel for its vehicles - biofuel that it manufactures itself, which is apparently illegal as only registered players (i.e. Big Oil or Big Agro) are authorised to make biofuels.

This was described as enforcing the choice that only the big players are allowed in this market - and thus preventing local solutions.

I did not keep the paper, so may have missed some details, but that was pretty depressing news.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:24:45 AM EST
Can't have people dodging taxes, can we?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 08:39:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that reminds me of that time a few years ago in the uk, when people were running their cars on wesson oil straight into the tank, and they were busted, instead of being thanked and emulated.

that's the exact moment i finally lost the last smidgeon of respect for tony blair.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 10:42:04 AM EST


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