Energy, climate, agriculture
The industrial agro-fuels will contribute to solve neither the agricultural nor the climatic crisis.
They will enter in competition with the food production.
The agricultural, trade and energy policies have urgently to be changed.
The farms can contribute positively to the decrease of global warming.
Notice : we prefer to use the term of "agro-fuels", instead of "bio-fuels" (oil also is a product resulting
from living beings),
1) The industrial agro-fuels are inefficient on the levels of energy, economy and society
It is a mistake to produce fuels industrially from corn, wheat, beet or rapeseed. These industrial
agrofuels of first generation, resulting from intensive farming, have a very low energy effectiveness and poor balances regarding the greenhouse gas emissions.
It is better to give priority to raw rapeseed oil produced at the farm rather than agro-fuel plants: these have a very disputed energetically and climatic profitability; their economical profitability depends on large subsidies (taxes exemptions), and they will favour the large farms in detriment to rural employment.
The settlement of these plants often close to large harbours shows that the priority will be given indeed to the import of cheaper tropical agro-fuels .
The development of 2nd generation fuels resulting from biomass (wood, cellulose, organic waste)
seems more promising from the energy point of view than annual intensive cultures, providing that soil organic matter is preserved. However the expected volumes of these fuels would represent only a marginal part of the oil fuels we are using now.
2) in competition with the food production in Europe and worldwide
The only incorporation of 5,75% of agrofuels in oil fuels would require 20% of the present grain
area. By using the whole agricultural area of the EU, one could provide only 30% of the present needs for fuels. If the EU would import agrofuels, the problem of competition with food would be moved to other countries and the great energy dependence of Europe would be maintained.
Instead of giving priority to the reduction of transport, the industrialized countries develop
great projects of agro-fuel production in tropical countries like Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil,… That is done to the detriment of food security and biodiversity .
It is necessary to urge a wide debate in Europe on the priorities to be given to the use of land.
It must be taken in account that a massive production of meat, characteristic of the industrialized countries, needs much land.
3) agrofuels subsidies instead of CAP subsidies ?
The CPE wonders about the very strong agro-industrial lobbying in favour of agro-fuels, with the
support of the European Commission. Facing the lack of legitimacy of the current CAP support from the international and social points of view and by anticipating a strong decrease of the agricultural budget after 2013, they try to direct the public opinion to the need for subsidizing the production and the use of agro-fuels. That would guarantee the maintenance of great subsidies for large farms and industry.
4) the farms can contribute positively to the decrease of global warming:
– by changing the ways of farming (to decrease in priority the use of nitrate fertilizers, which represent around 40% of the energy use of the farms),
– by adopting systems of production and farming techniques which raise the organic matter rate of the soil, in order to increase the quantities of carbon confined in the soil,
– if one favours the production of raw oil pressed on the farm, as well as biogas,
– if one favours the development of solar electricity on the roofs of the agricultural buildings .
5) It is necessary to change the agricultural and trade policies
The climatic crisis condemns the logic of the current CAP and WTO, which increase transport and imposes to relocate the economy, giving priority to efficiency, employment and environment. That is the way the EU has to choose at the next EU summit on 8/9 March, and not to give credit to the illusion of the industrial agro-fuels.
(a longer text is available at www.cpefarmers.org)
1 The energetical effectiveness indeed is:
– around 1,00 for corn ethanol (1,00 =same energy used to produce it as energy in the final product)
– 1,06 for wheat ethanol – 1,14 for sugar beet ethanol – 1,66 for rapeseed methylic ester
– these figures become 1,35 (wheat) -1,25 (beet) – 2,23 (rapeseed) if we integrate the savings generated by the use in animal feed of the by-products.
The rapeseed oil pressed on the farm has better results (1,88 and 3,8), especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
Only the ethanol from sugar cane has very good energetically results. But Europe does not produce any.
See EDEN study: http://www.espoir-rural.fr/images/stories/section/agrocarburants%20%20synthese%20eden%202006.pdf
2 See the NGO letter to the EU – http://www.corporateeurope.org/Open_Letter_EU_biofuels