Reacting to several recent studies which have shown bio-fuels contributing to the current world food crisis as well as deforestation and other climate change factors, the European Union is going to cut back drastically on its bio fuels production plans:
This won't be the end of bio-fuels but it may presage a more rational policy with regards to subsidies and other enticements that has taken so much arable land out of the food production business.
Until recently, European governments had sought to lead the rest of the world in the use of biofuels, aiming to derive 10 percent of Europe's transportation fuels from biofuels by 2020. But the allure has dimmed amid growing evidence that the kind of goals proposed by the European Union are contributing to deforestation, which speeds climate change, and helping force up food prices.
"I think when we will look back we will say this was the beginning of a turning point for Europe on biofuels," said Juan Delgado, a research fellow specializing in energy and climate change at Breugel, a research organization in Brussels. "It will be very difficult now for Europe to stick by its targets."
In the United States, one quarter of the corn crop goes to biofuels. An energy bill passed last year requires that 36 billion gallons of biofuels be produced annually by 2022, but criticism of the policy is growing, including calls to end tax breaks for corn-based ethanol.
A major reason is that over the last 18 months, studies have shown that the current generation of biofuels - reliant on food crops like canola, corn and soybeans - helps drive up food prices by using agricultural land, as well as aggravating deforestation, and may be worse for the climate than conventional oil once the cost of production and transport are taken into account.
Research into using other kinds of bio matter such as grasses and even food waste from garbage dumps that could be turned into methane are still being explored and may yet see a time when such enterprises could turn a profit - without government help. Until then, bio fuels are an expensive luxury that the EU now sees as untenable at its present production.