SFGate: EU Mulls Ways to Reduce Use of Food-Based Biofuel

October 18, 2012

Europe is considering limiting the amount of food-based biofuels that can count toward its renewable fuel targets while a drought in the U.S. has pushed up food prices worldwide and millions around the world go hungry.

As part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the European Union had previously decided that 10 percent of the fuel used for transport in the 27-country bloc must come from renewable sources by 2020.

But environmentalists argue that biofuels made from food, like corn and soybeans, may add as much or even more to greenhouse gas emissions as fossil fuels they replace because trees are often felled to grow them. Others have criticized the burning of food while there are still millions who can't afford to eat.

In response, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, proposed Wednesday that food-based fuels only be allowed to contribute to half of the 10 percent target. The rest should come from more advanced biofuels that don't take up valuable farming land — like algae or waste.

The commission is also suggesting that the efficiency targets that biofuels must reach before they receive subsidies should be increased. Currently, they must emit 35 percent less greenhouse gas than the fuels they replace; that number will rise to 50 percent in 2017 and eventually to 60 percent.