By AOIFE WHITE 07.04.07, 3:04 PM ET
Europe must act to prevent a biofuel boom tearing down rainforests to
produce the low-emission fuel rich nations want for their cars, EU
Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will say in a speech on Thursday.
EU nations have vowed to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with
biofuel made from energy crops by 2020 in an effort to wean itself off
imported oil and cut down on carbon dioxide emissions.
But Mandelson said the EU could not allow the switch to biofuels to
become "an environmentally unsustainable stampede in the developing
"Europeans won't pay a premium for biofuels if the ethanol in their
car is produced unsustainably by systematically burning fields after
harvests," he said. "Or if it comes at the expense of rainforests."
His prepared remarks come from a speech he will give Thursday at an EU
biofuels conference in Brussels.
The EU wanted to set sustainability standards to encourage producers
to use more durable production methods, he said - rules that would
apply to both importers and European producers.
He said Europe and others should help developing countries to reach
these goals because their decisions had a huge impact on poorer
nations, mentioning protests in Mexico City over tortilla corn flour
prices just days after the U.S. called for more biofuel output - made
from the same maize.
A United Nations report warned Wednesday that high commodity prices
blamed on increasing demand for biofuels could last throughout the
decade as more maize, wheat, rape seed and sugar is turned into fuel.
Mandelson said that Europe had to accept that it will need to import a
large part of the biofuel it needs and it should put environmental
considerations first - even if that means favoring low-emission
Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane and maize over carbon-heavy
French oilseed crops.
"We should certainly not contemplate favoring EU production of
biofuels with a weak carbon performance if we can import cheaper,
cleaner biofuels," he said. "Resource nationalism doesn't serve us
Oilseed crops grown in Europe currently receive large government
subsidies that often make them cheaper for consumers than tariff-laden
Brazilian ethanol that releases far less carbon dioxide when burnt.
"All biofuels are not equal," Mandelson said. "We must commit to
meeting our targets through the use of those biofuels that are most
effective in relative terms in reducing global carbon impact."
He said the EU had to encourage more research into "second generation"
biofuels that would make it easier to produce ethanol by fermenting
crop stalks and usually thrown away - a method that could massively
increase biofuel output in Europe and the rest of the world.
According to the U.N. outlook, annual maize-based ethanol output in
the United States is expected to double between 2006 and 2016. In the
European Union the amount of oilseeds, mainly rape seed, used for
biofuels is set to grow from just over 10 million tons to 21 million
tons over the same period.
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