Making Biofuels Truly Sustainable

European Federation for Transport & Environment

Over the last decade, policymakers in the United States, Europe, and Indonesia have passed an array of policies to mandate and subsidize the use of bioenergy – the burning of fuels made from corn ethanol, soy, palm oil, and wood chips – for electricity and transportation. Although these policies were originally passed with the promise that they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy independence, and even reduce costs, they have instead had major negative unintended consequences for all three goals.

Recognizing these challenges, the European Federation for Transport & Environment has joined with Waxman in a multi-year strategy to make sure any bioenergy used actually delivers on its promise.

We’re facing entrenched interests that have become reliant on government support to prop up their industry: Approximately one-third of European biofuels used is now palm oil, the leading driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia. In the United States, misguided federal policies divert more than one third of the corn crop, and a substantial amount of soy, away from the global food supply to be burned in gas tanks. Meanwhile, demand for food keeps growing, driving conversion of millions of acres of prairies in the United States and tropical rainforests in Brazil and Indonesia to keep up with the demand for commodities created by biofuel mandates. And global agricultural interests are increasingly driving duplication of these policies in developing world countries.

To stop this waste, we’re working around the world with our partners to document the damage caused by improper biofuel policies, and build powerful coalitions that can persuade policymakers to reform these policies to ensure they are supporting only bioenergy that have proven environmental and economic benefits. In the United States, for instance, we’re working to stop a congressional proposal that would actually eliminate greenhouse gas accounting for biomass. And we’re working to expose the true face of European and US biofuels policy by documenting deforestation connected to companies that supply palm oil for biofuels.

Our work has contributed to an increasing recognition by policymakers that conventional biofuel policies have had major unintended consequences and are in need of reform.