230 say 'no' to EU's biofuels directive

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An open letter signed by over 230 organisations and individuals – including author/campaigner Mark Lynas and Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas – has been sent to the European Union calling for ministers to vote against planned biofuel targets at the EU Summit on Friday.

The letter argues that if EU’s targets of a 10% biofuel blend in ordinary petrol and diesel by 2010 are met, the impact on biodiversity and increased carbon dioxide emissions will be significant.

Many campaigners have argued that the use of biofuels will help to reduce emissions of


by burning a fuel that has absorbed


while it was growing. But a groundswell of evidence, including the Ecologist’s own analysis, now shows that the ancillary processes involved in producing biofuels – such as creating fertilisers, ploughing fields, distilling the fuels and destroying natural habitats – actually exacerbate the problems of climate change.

The signatories to the letter maintain that growing or importing fuel crops instead of food runs counter to the EU’s Millenium Development Goals, which pledge support to the less industrialised world, and that the benefit, if any, that biofuels could provide would be minimal: less than a 1 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases at the pump. They call on the EU to introduce more stringent car emissions standards and for measures to reduce our demand for energy.

Almuth Ernsting, from the campaign group Biofuel Watch, said:
'If the EU Summitt says says "yes" to mandatory biofuel targets, it will be giving the green light to plans to convert millions of hectares of rainforest, grasslands and traditional farmland across Latin America, Asia and Africa into biofuel monocultures. The greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, peat drainage and from intensive agriculture will far outweigh any apparent carbon savings from using less fossil fuels.'

This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007