The trend worsens: More palm oil for energy, less for food

June 26, 2019

Drivers burn more than half of palm oil imported into the EU - 2018 data

In 2018, almost two-thirds (65%) of the palm oil imported into the EU was burned as energy. Of that, 53% was used to make biodiesel for cars and trucks and 12% to generate electricity and heating. About a third of all the palm oil consumed in the EU in 2018 was used to produce food, animal feed and other industrial products such as cosmetics. Worryingly, palm oil used for biodiesel grew again last year – by 3% – while the use of palm oil to make food and animal feed dropped by a considerable 11%. This trend proves that the imported deforestation from palm oil is mainly driven by the EU biofuels policy.

Last month the EU labelled the use of palm oil for energy (mainly palm oil diesel) as unsustainable and the bloc is set to phase it out by 2030, starting in 2023. Even though loopholes remain, it was a welcome decision because palm oil drives deforestation, making the cure (biodiesel) worse than the disease (fossil diesel). Due to years of flawed biofuels policy, the EU has been constantly increasing the use of palm oil biodiesel since 2009. And this trend got worse last year.

With the lifting of anti-dumping duties on Indonesian palm oil diesel and Argentine soy diesel, imports of refined biodiesel tripled in 2018 compared to 2017 – with palm oil and soy accounting for around 86% of all biodiesel imports. The EU spends 4.2 billion euros on imports of these unsustainable biofuels – more than what EU institutions spend to protect nature over six years. EU member states now have the possibility to stop this imported deforestation.

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