Illegal logging for paper industry and forest clearing for Palm oil plantation, Sumatra, Indonesia.

EU reliance on biofuel likely to increase dramatically

09.09.2013 - 11:12

European reliance on biofuels is set to increase in the future, putting the global environment at risk, campaigners are saying.

According to Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), new figures show that palm oil now accounts for 20% of Europe's biodiesel mix, higher than predicted.

MEPs are due to debate biofuels policy today (9 September), with a vote later in the week on the reduction of biofuels in Europe.

Environmental and development campaigners are arguing that competition between crops for food and fuel is having a detrimental effect on the developing world. Increased demand for biodiesel has seen palm oil increase in transport fuel rise by 356% in the past 6 years.

According to new figures, 20% of palm oil used for European biodiesel is imported. Previous estimates for 2007-2009 had this figure at between 12%-13%. Although the majority of palm oil in Europe is used for food or cosmetics, the increasing demand in Europe for biodiesel is pushing up demand for palm oil imports.

According to FoEE, if the European Parliament does not vote to curb crop-based biofuels, demand for biodiesel could double by 2020, with biodiesel produced in Europe from palm oil imports estimated to rise by 40%.

European motorists are unknowingly contributing to an ecological disaster, says Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner at FoEE. “Palm oil is driving mass deforestation, wildlife loss, community conflicts, and accelerating climate change,” he says. “It is alarming to find that palm oil use in European cars is sky-rocketing, and will only increase further, unless MEPs put a halt to increasing biofuels. Drivers are unknowingly being forced to fill up with a fuel that is destroying rainforests, communities and the climate.”

Biodiesel made from palm oil has been linked to deforestation in south east Asia, which is increasing global carbon emissions. Cars that use palm oil biodiesel have a greater carbon ffotprint that normal diesel, mainly owing to indirect land use change (ILUC), where land formally used for food crops is altered for the use of crops cultivated for fuel.