In 2010, the EU set a 10% renewable energy target for transport by 2020. As a result, the demand for cheap crop-based biodiesel, such as palm and soy oil, increased, destroying several million hectares of forests in Asia and South America. ‘A policy that was supposed to save the planet is actually trashing it.‘
As countries race against time to meet their Paris Climate Change Summit targets for reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030, biofuels (made from plant extracts) have emerged as a preferred alternative to fossil fuels like coal and petroleum products…
But, are biofuels really environment-friendly? What about the biodiversity loss caused due to cutting of forests on thousands of acres of virgin land to grow food crops that produce biofuels? Will over-dependence on biofuels not lead to food crisis in future?
Countries like India, which have just hopped onto the biofuel bandwagon, have lessons to learn from the European Union (EU) which introduced the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in 2010, setting a 10% renewable energy target for transport by 2020 for each member country. While the objective was good – to reduce dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels – what has actually happened is that high demand for cheap crop-based biodiesel, such as palm and soy oil, subsequently destroyed several acres of forests in Asia and South America. About 10% of the world’s remaining orangutan habitats have vanished because forest land was cleared for biofuel crop production.
It is estimated that the EU’s quest for green fuel has roughly wiped out 4 million hectares of forests. Laura Buffet, energy director at Transport & Environment (T&E) Group, said: “10 years of this ‘green’ fuels law and what have we got to show for it? Rampant deforestation, habitats wiped out and worse emissions than if we had used polluting diesel instead. A policy that was supposed to save the planet is actually trashing it. We cannot afford another decade of this failed policy. We need to break the biofuels monopoly in renewable transport and put electricity at the centre of the RED instead.”