Free Markets, Free People


Irony: Biofuels may be 167% more polluting than fossil fuels

Even more irony – the groups lining up against the EU’s energy targets mandating the use of biofuels are not who you would expect:

Energy targets for 23 of the EU’s 27 members suggest 9.5 percent of the bloc’s transportation energy will come from biofuels by 2020, said the groups, which include Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and ActionAid. The crops may need an area twice the size of Belgium, and clearing the necessary land could make the fuels 167 percent more polluting for the climate than sticking with gasoline and diesel, they said.

The proponents naturally say that’s all nonsense:

The EU aims to get 10 percent of its energy for transportation from biofuels, hydrogen and renewable power by 2020. The target is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

EU energy spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said the targets require less land than the study suggests and that EU guidelines prevent the use of deforested land.

“The Renewable Directive says very clearly that it is not allowed to chop down forests to produce biofuels,” Holzner said in an e-mail. “The same goes for drained peatland, wetland or highly biodiverse areas.”

Well of course it says that’s not allowed. Whether or not that’s actually followed is another matter entirely. But here’s the point – the directive’s implementation means that existing land that can be used to reach the targets must be converted from growing whatever it is growing now (food?) to being dedicated to biofuel production. Either way a large area (twice the size of Belgium?) is going to have to be dedicated to such production to make the 10 percent target viable. So where does "food production" go? Looking for new land, that’s where. Or, the EU learns to live with the reduction in agricultural products and the resultant increase in prices required to turn the existing land into biofuel production.

The bureaucrats wave away the concern:

The 10 percent target would require 2 million to 5 million hectares of land, and there is enough unused terrain in the EU that was previously used for crop production to cover its needs, Holzner said.

This is classic government intrusion into markets and the beginning of the inevitable market distortions that brings along with the law of unintended consequences.  Biofuels have to be grown somewhere.  Government is going to subsidize that at a rate higher than growing food.  That means, at some point, food growth is going to be displaced.   Holzner, with an airy wave of the hand says “hey, the land is available – problem solved”. 

Of such are man-made disasters cluelessly formulated and executed.