Increasing the biofuel content of transport fuel to 10% perpetuates private car usage and is in danger of increasing emissions.

16th December 2018
Press Release

On Friday 14th December, Minister Bruton announced an increase in the level of renewable energy used in the Transport Sector with the level of biofuel in fuel mix to increase from 8% to 10% from January 2019. Minister Bruton will also consult on further increasing the level to 11% from January 2020. [1]

Biofuel is incorrectly designated as emission-free under current Kyoto and EU accounting mechanisms. However, if the Paris Agreement decarbonisation target is to be achieved all emissions must be counted, and there is an emission cycle impact (see Transport and Environment below)[6] from different sources of bioenergy, including biofuel.

As a result of lobbying by fossil fuel engine manufacturers the provisions of the EU accounting rules for meeting the renewable target for transport allowed a "Biofuel Obligation" through the blending of a proportion of biofuel content with fossil fuel. The result has been the creation of a distorted import market for biofuels into the EU, including Ireland, which does nothing to reduce fuel import dependence.

An Taisce’s Response[2] to the Public Consultation on future increases in the biofuels obligation rate stated that there are strong reasons for rejecting the Biofuels Obligation Scheme approach and proposed increase:

  • GHG emissions savings that are claimed from using biofuels will depend on the deeply flawed emissions accounting employed by the EU which assumes that biofuels are carbon neutral and fails to define or enforce strict sustainability criteria;
  • Climate impacts of using biomass for transport fuel will depend on lifecycle emissions arising from land-use change, fertiliser use, harvesting, collecting, processing and transport. Estimates for these emissions are uncertain but can be considerable – they are certainly not zero as is commonly assumed; [6]
  • EU support for crop-based biodiesel should end as soon as possible and completely ending support for land-based biofuels should be considered;

Ireland is far from being self-sufficient in biofuels and much of the biofuel is imported palm oil [3] and much of that has very questionable social and environmental provenance[4]. Though the EU will ban palm oil in biofuels by 2030, Transport and the Environment (T&E) a Brussels based NGO, have stated:

“Adopted in 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) promotes the use of biofuels by setting a national target for the use of renewable energy in the transport sector - 10% of the energy consumed in transport must come from renewable sources by 2020. On the other hand, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) sets a carbon intensity reduction target of 6% on each fuel supplier in 2020. This drove a rapid uptake of biofuels, mainly from food crops.

None of these pieces of legislation account for the full climate emissions of biofuels. They do not take into account the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) linked to Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), which occurs when land is used for growing crops for biofuels.

In some cases, these ILUC emissions are so high that some biofuels lead to higher GHG emissions than the fossil fuel they replace, when taking into account the whole life-cycle emissions. This is the case for biodiesel made from vegetable oils (rapeseed, palm oil, soy and sunflower).”[6]

and

“Of all biodiesel, palm oil has the highest greenhouse gas emissions – three times the emissions of fossil diesel, because palm expansion drives deforestation and peatland drainage in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Last year, 51% of the palm oil used in Europe ended up in the tanks of cars and trucks. This makes drivers the top (albeit unaware) consumers of palm oil in Europe.” [5]

and

"The use of palm oil for EU biofuels dwarfs the amount used to make cookies, hazelnut spreads, ice cream, shampoo, lipsticks – and other food and cosmetic products. [6] [7]

Greenpeace are running an International Campaign against the rampant destruction of rainforests for palm oil entitled “Save Rang-tan. End dirty palm oil.”[8] and The Orangutan Foundation International explain “How does Palm Oil Harm Orangutans and other wildlife?”[9].

Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s Advocacy Officer stated:

"Instead of promoting a full technological shift to electric vehicles the biofuel content has achieved only a notional individual vehicle emission reduction. It has locked Ireland and Europe at large into the continued use of the internal combustion engine. It does not resolve the continued impact of air pollution from diesel fumes in cities.

Traffic pollution is rising in Ireland as the measures set out in 2009 Government Transport policy “Smarter Travel” have not been implemented in curtailing growth in private car use and achieving a major shift to cycling and public transport."

Ian Lumley concluded:

“The future of mobility in Ireland must involve a radical shift from use of the private car, whatever the fuel source, combined with major investment in cycling and primarily electrified public transport.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:
Ian Lumley, Advocacy Officer, An Taisce: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

Notes

  1. Minister Bruton’s Press Release Friday 14th December https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/news-and-media/press-releases/Pages/Minister-Bruton-Announces-Increase-in-Level-of-Renewable-Energy-Used-in-Transport-Sector.aspx
  2. An Taisce’s response to the the public consultation on future increases in the biofuels obligation Jan 2018 https://drive.google.com/file/d/10g6FS0RZi87_A0BbYhiu3pXw21pt2ova/view?usp=sharing
  3. Ireland imports 84% of its biofuel, a far cry from self-sufficiency June 12th 2014 http://www.antaisce.org/articles/ireland-imports-84-its-biofuel-far-cry-self-sufficiency
  4. EU biofuels policy provokes human rights abuses - ActionAid & An Taisce 10th December 2013 http://www.antaisce.org/articles/eu-biofuels-policy-provokes-human-rights-abuses-actionaid-taisce
  5. Transport & Environment EU ends target for food-based biofuels and phases out palm oil in cars only in 2030 https://www.transportenvironment.org/press/eu-ends-target-food-based-biofuels-and-phases-out-palm-oil-cars-only-2030
  6. Transport & Environment on Biofuels https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do/biofuels
  7. EU motorists forced to burn more palm oil and rainforest to meet green energy targets – new data https://www.transportenvironment.org/news/eu-motorists-forced-burn-more-palm-oil-and-rainforest-meet-green-energy-targets-%E2%80%93-new-data
  8. Save Rang-tan. End dirty palm oil. https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/what-we-do/forests/rang-tan/
  9. How does Palm Oil Harm Orangutans and other wildlife? The Orangutan Foundation International https://orangutan.org/rainforest/the-effects-of-palm-oil/

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.