Despite all the glaring evidence proving that palm-oil biodiesel is three times more polluting than fossil diesel, European transport still keeps burning more and more palm oil to power its diesel cars and trucks. 2015 data from OILWORLD, industry's reference for vegetable oils market analysis, shows a 3% increase in the use of palm oil for biodiesel. European biodiesel is now the main end product of imported palm oil, reaching an all-time-high share of 46%. This makes drivers the leading (albeit unaware) consumers of palm oil in Europe.
European heads of state have agreed that in 2030, 27% of Europe’s energy should come from renewable sources. Not all renewables are sustainable though; for instance, food-based biofuels as well as burning whole trees imported from the US in EU power plants has come in for a lot of criticism.
The European Union relies on foreign companies to supply 80% of its oil imports, according to a new study on the continent’s oil dependency. Russian firms supply more than one-third (36%) of imported crude, and just two of the top 10 oil suppliers to the EU are European – Shell and Norway’s Statoil.
Some of the world’s most valuable forests are still being destroyed in order to make palm oil, of which a considerable portion ends up as biodiesel for use on Europe’s roads. That is the striking message from an investigation by a global alliance of NGOs, including T&E, that has uncovered horrific deforestation in Indonesia’s pristine rainforest in the remote province of Papua. T&E says this highlights the urgent need for the EU to correct the anomalies in European legislation that allow climate-harming biofuels to count towards climate targets.
T&E, as well over 100 other organisations signed up to an open letter to EU decision makers on EU biofuels policy. Urgent action is needed to halt the expansion of land-based biofuels (i.e. biofuels, or agrofuels, made from food crops or dedicated energy crops) which bring few or no climate benefits while putting extra pressure on scarce land resources, especially for food and feed.
With today’s biofuel proposal , the European Commission has acknowledged the climate impact of biofuel emissions from indirect land-use change (ILUC)  but does not tackle it. The proposed obligation to monitor ILUC emissions from biofuels will not solve the key environmental issue of halting production of unsustainable biofuels that are, in some cases, more harmful to the climate than fossil fuels, Transport & Environment says.
Opinion by Jos Dings - T&E director
People who follow our work – and Europe’s environmental policy – a little bit will have noticed that two fuels-related draft laws keep dragging on without any apparent progress. The first one is what to do about indirect land use change effects of biofuels (key words: Iluc, biodiesel). The second is whether or not to give petrol and diesel from unconventional fossil sources a higher lifecycle greenhouse gas default value (key words: fuel quality directive, tar sands).