Global Renewable Fuels Alliance questions land use study that claims EU's increased biofuels targets will devastate forests, convert farmland, says study is politically motivated, based on bad science

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter

Nov 8, 2010 – Global Renewable Fuels Alliance

TORONTO , November 8, 2010 (press release) – The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) today challenged the findings and motivations of a report by a European Aid lobby group (ActionAid) and several other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that questioned the role of biofuels in the European energy market.  According to the GRFA, the lobby groups’ findings appear more politically motivated than solution driven to end Oil’s dominance over the energy economy and allow developing nations to benefit from the production of biofuels.

“One has to question the motives of this group given the weakness of their study and the inherent biases in their findings,” said GRFA spokesperson Bliss Baker. “The so-called study relies on the unfounded and questionable science called “indirect land use change” (ILUC) to support more fossil fuels,” added Mr. Baker.

Several academics and policy makers around the world have questioned ILUC modeling as a science and concluded that it is extremely unreliable at predicting the impacts of biofuels production on agricultural trends. Despite this uncertainty surrounding the science, ActionAid has used these models to draw significant conclusions about the impacts of growing biofuels production on future land use around the world.

The lobby group’s report suggests that the European Union’s plan to increase biofuels production will result in the devastation of forests and the conversion of agricultural lands to biofuels production. This claim was made despite the fact that a recent UK study says that there are “still vast reserves of under-utilized land in Europe and elsewhere in the world which can be brought into production under the stimulus of increased demand. It is estimated that there are 10 million hectares of land currently idle in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which are likely to be brought into production if agricultural prices rise. Likewise, the arable lands of eastern and central Europe are still producing at well below their full capacity.”

“It seems that these NGOs would prefer to raise fears about food security using biofuels as a scapegoat even at the expense of promoting more fossil fuels,” said Mr. Baker. “These kinds of bumper sticker campaigns are not helpful and they serve to distract policy makers from the more important issues of world hunger that need to be addressed.”

Indeed, a new study of the motives of NGO’s in Europe in opposing biofuels calls their commitment to addressing the real problems of climate change and hunger. The report entitled “Battles over Biofuels in Europe: NGOs and the Politics of Markets” and published in the journal Sociological Research Online on August 31, 2010 specifically questions the motives of key NGOs in Europe in their crusade against biofuels.

The report concludes, “We found that in many cases the development of NGO policy has been driven more by narrow political opportunities for influence than by broader and more coherent policy responses to global climate change or economic development, or indeed rigorous assessment of the scientific evidence.”

“The reality is that biofuels represents an enormous opportunity for developing countries and will help encourage much needed investment in the agricultural sector,” said Mr. Baker.

The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) is an international federation representing more than 65 per cent of the world's renewable fuels production from 30 countries. Through the development of new technology and best practices, its members are committed to producing renewable fuels with the smallest possible ecological footprint. The GRFA promotes the expanded use of ethanol and biodiesel throughout the world; advocating for sound public policy and responsible research to help meet the world’s energy, environmental and economic challenges.

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