Monday, January 21, 2008

Europe cutting Biofuel Subsidies.

Enviro: As America continues to pile on the biofuel pork, Europe is realizing biofuels is not the answer.

Several countries — including Australia, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, as well as parts of Canada — have removed or are revising incentives for farmers, biofuel refiners and distributors.

The manufacturers and sellers will have to quantify their fuel’s net effect on the environment before being eligible for subsidies, or even to count toward national biofuel quotas. Many European countries aim to have 5.75 percent of their transportation fuel made from renewable sources by the end of the year.

There is increasing evidence that the total emissions and environmental damage from producing many “clean” biofuels often outweigh their lower emissions when compared with fossil fuels. More governments are responding to these findings.

Under a proposed Swiss directive, for example, a liter of biofuel would have to produce 40 percent less in emissions than fossil fuel to qualify for special treatment. It will be hard to make corn ethanol or even rapeseed (used to make canola oil) meet the standard, said Lukas Gutzwiller of Switzerland’s Federal Energy Office.

With a fuller picture of “the pros and cons of various biofuels, it was very obvious to us that we should not just push forward blindly,” Mr. Gutzwiller said. “We had to base the political debate on environmental analysis to make sure that biofuels were having a positive effect.”

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