European countries clash with US over biofuels at G7 summit

June 30, 2022

Pressure builds on halt to crop biofuels mandates as food prices soar

In the Bavarian Alps, the G7 leaders came together to discuss the implications of the war against Ukraine and two of the world’s other most pressing challenges: climate and food security. With grain supplies currently stuck in Ukraine – one of the world’s biggest exporters – discussions turned to how the world could free up supplies in the face of shortages and soaring food prices. 

Earlier in the week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for reduction in biofuels. In 2021, two-thirds of the biofuel used in standard grade (E10) petrol came from crops that should have been food. A full fifth – around 2% of every tank of fuel – came from Ukrainian corn. Germany also joined the UK to call for a halt to biofuels mandates.

In the same week, T&E heaped pressure on European politicians by showing that Europe pours 17,000 tons of cooking oil into vehicles a day – the equivalent of 19 million bottles. This, on top of the 10,000 tonnes of wheat Europe burns for biofuels each day, is putting severe strain on the global food staples. 

But up against the US – a major proponent of biofuels – the leaders final communiqué was disappointing. “We will continue to be mindful with regards to our long-term drive towards alternative fuels for transport, to our objectives on climate and biodiversity and food security,” was as far as the G7 was willing to go. 

Maik Marahrens, senior biofuels campaigner at T&E, derided the announcement.“The G7 leaders discussed global food security but missed the lowest hanging fruit. We could free up significant amounts of key food crops if we simply stopped burning them in our cars. The world’s leaders, the US in particular, have failed to choose food over fuel and in doing so have condemned the world’s most vulnerable to shortages and higher prices,” he said.

“President Biden chooses to put his farmers profits and drivers’ fuel bills over the needs of millions of people globally that are struggling to have access to enough food. Blocking the proposal by the UK for the G7 to collectively commit to reducing food in biofuels is appalling.”

Yet, Europe still has a chance to address its own crop biofuels use. The UK government has announced it will review the country’s biofuels use, while the European Parliament can express its support for food security by lowering the cap on food crop biofuels in the EU’s green fuels law (Renewable Energy Directive). 

As T&E’s most recent study showed, prices for biofuels are currently 65% to 130% higher than petrol and diesel on the wholesale market depending on the crop used. Biofuels are therefore worse for the climate, worse for biodiversity, contribute to higher food prices and put an unnecessary financial burden on already struggling European households.

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