Forest-destroying palm oil powers cars in EU: report

Posted: June 2, 2016 by oldbrew in Emissions, Energy
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According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production [image credit: Say No To Palm Oil]

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production [image credit: Say No To Palm Oil]

Another so-called green policy is coming under increasing fire, as Yahoo News reports. EU ignores critics.

Paris (AFP) – Palm oil produced on tropical plantations that drive deforestation has become a major biofuel for vehicles in the European Union, industry figures released Tuesday by an environmental group revealed.

In 2014, nearly half of the palm oil used in Europe wound up in the gas tanks of cars and trucks, according to data compiled by the EU vegetable oil industry association Fediol, and obtained by Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment.

Second only to rapeseed as a biofuel, overall palm oil use in EU countries jumped six-fold from 2010 to 2015, accounting for a 34 percent increase in biodiesel consumption during that period, the figures showed.

Palm oil is also found in food, animal feed and cosmetics, but use in these sectors has dropped in Europe, in part due to pressure from environmental groups on major corporations. Up to now, how palm oil was distributed across products in the EU was not known.

“We now know why the industry is withholding these numbers,” said Jos Dings, executive director of Transport & Environment. “They show the ugly truth of Europe’s biofuel policy, which drives tropical deforestation, increases transport emissions, and does nothing to help European farmers,” he said in a statement.

Rules set in place in 2009 require that 10 percent of energy for transport in all EU countries comes from renewable sources by 2020. In practice, that has meant biofuels, since electric-powered vehicles account for a negligible percentage of energy in the transport sector.

Recent research, however, has shown that the climate impact of so-called “first generation” biofuels — mainly rapeseed, palm, sunflower and soy oil — is in fact greater than for fossil fuels, once deforestation is taken into account. These biofuels also compete for ever-scarcer land needed to grow food.

Produced mostly in Malaysia and Indonesia, palm oil causes three times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than diesel fuel, according to a recent analysis.

Recognising that the continued use of these crops clash with goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, The EU last year imposed a cap — seven percent — on the biofuels produced from food crops. They have also established sustainability criteria for such fuels, and encouraged the development of so-called “advanced” biofuels made from municipal waste, recycled cooking oil or agricultural waste.

Transport & Environment and other green groups have called for the removal of food-based biofuels from the EU’s transport energy mix after 2020. The Fediol figures showed that 3.5 billion litres of palm oil were burned as fuel in 2014, some 10 million litres per day.

Fediol director general Nathalie Lecocq confirmed the figures for EU biodiesel from palm oil, and that they had never been published. The numbers were “rough estimates for internal working purposes,” she said by email.

Lecocq also said that “only certified sustainable palm oil can be used to produce biodiesel.”
“This ensures that today, European biofuels are the most sustainable biofuels in the world,” she added.

Many NGOs question whether these standards are met in practice.

Full report: Forest-destroying palm oil powers cars in EU: report | Yahoo News

  1. A farmer told me that to produce rape-seed you need half as much diesel going into the tractor & farm machinery as comes out the farm. So, the net total amount of bio-diesel produced is likely half what they claim – and when you add massive transportation costs from S.America & refining etc. etc, it not unlikely that more fossil fuels are burnt getting the biofuel to the car than the amount of fuel delivered.

    In other words, its one big con – effectively just “green-washing” energy from 100% organic fossil fuel to 100% gullibles.

  2. Bloke down the pub says:

    On the origins of EU Diesel policy.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Biofuel has about 20% lower calorific value than standard diesel, i.e. diesel is more efficient.

    Diesel also has a much lower flash point than biofuel.

  4. oldbrew says:

    New palm oil figures: Biodiesel use in EU fueling deforestation

    Palm oil has become a major biofuel for EU vehicles, new figures show. But far from an eco-friendly alternative, biodiesel is 80 percent worse for the climate than fossil diesel, critics say. Will the EU change course?