EU in fresh row over biofuels’ ‘green’ claims
A fresh row has erupted in Brussels over the environmental benefits of biofuels, with academics and EU officials at loggerhead over how to account for CO2 savings in the product’s life cycle.
A group of 19 European scientists have argued that the EU’s biofuels policy was based on a “serious accounting error” and should be changed, triggering a row with the European Commission, which defends biofuels for being “carbon neutral”.
The row began with the leaking of an opinion by the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) last week.
The report eviscerates the official EU stand that biofuels are environmentally beneficial, as an accounting error with “immense” potential consequences.
The EU says that the carbon absorbed by biofuel plants when growing offsets their CO2 emissions when burned.
“The CO2 emitted from burning biofuels is assumed to be carbon neutral, as the carbon was taken out of the atmosphere when the biomass grew. It therefore does not add carbon to the atmosphere, as this carbon is part of the existing carbon cycle,” an EU official told EurActiv in an email.
But the panel of 19 EEA scientists decided that this neglected the fact that other carbon-absorbing plants would have grown in the biofuels place, if the land was fertile, and so any carbon absorption from the biofuels was being “double-counted”.
“What comes out the tail pipe of a car is real carbon dioxide, whether you’re burning biofuel or diesel,” an academic associated with the study said. “You get the benefit from plant growth [but] land grows plants anyway, whether you’re using them for biofuels or not.”