Biofuel policy will give ‘negligible’ carbon cuts

Someone in Europe is finally starting to realize the potential of biofuels to destroy carbon sinks and the biodiversity inside them:

For transport, improving energy efficiency of vehicles should be the first priority. If biofuels are to be part of the energy solution, the EU must ensure that those produced by clearing rainforests and protected habitats [carbon sinks along with associated biodiversity] will never be sold in Europe.

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Their rather predictable solution is to put in place a system of “sustainability safeguards.” In other words, extend their already moribund bureaucracy in an attempt to insure that all biofuel entering all ports in all of Europe is grown sustainably [without destroying carbon sinks and biodiversity].

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It won’t work. The reasons it won’t work are unending.

Many countries cannot grow more biofuel monocrops without cutting down more rainforest. Producers will simply consume oil grown on razed rainforest domestically, or sell it to countries that don’t care how it was grown, and sell that which was grown “sustainably” to biofuel-hungry European importers.

Brazil (PDF), for example, can use existing cow pasture for soybeans to make biodiesel. The displaced cattle ranchers will just clear more rainforest. It will become one giant shell game. Businessmen looking to profit from importing that fuel will look the other way with every opportunity, not because they are evil, but because that is just human nature (a matter of definition maybe). The lumber industry has tried to create sustainability safeguards to protect tropical rainforests. To date, 95% of those forests are protected only on paper.

Biofuels are bad news for biodiversity unless we can find ways to meet demand without using more land.

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