Pivotal New Study Calls for End to Biofuels Mandates

January 29, 2015

“I would say that many of the [environmental] claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit environmental think tank with a global staff of more than 450 scientists and other experts in climate, energy, food, forests, water and more.

Because biofuels haven’t lived up to expectations—environmental or otherwise—the World Resources Institute (WRI) has concluded in a pivotal new study that policies mandating their use, like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), are a “misguided approach to fighting global warming.”

In an article on the report, the New York Times explained further:

“Turning plant matter into liquid fuel…is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand” and “continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population…

“The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.

Timothy D. Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton and primary author of the new report, said policies like the RFS “failed to consider the opportunity cost of using land to produce plants for biofuel.”

“We would like to phase out biofuels that require the dedicated use of land,” Searchinger said. “We're not against using waste and other residues. The thing is, we only have so much land in the world. There are serious costs to using it for energy because of it what we have to give up.”

That “opportunity cost” has both environmental and hunger repercussions, a problem echoed by Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, a respected global environmental and anti-hunger organization. In his endorsement of the study, he said “we need to change course now before broken policies like the RFS sentence the world to runaway climate change and global hunger.”

Of course this is hardly the first time environmental researchers and anti-hunger authorities have spoken out against this deeply broken government mandate. Just last year, the Environmental Working Group published a study detailing the three ways the environment would benefit from reducing the ethanol mandate.

The Renewable Fuel Standard isn’t the “environmentally-friendly” policy that Americans want or need. Tell Congress it’s time to take heed of environmentalists’ warnings and reform this broken policy.