• California law puts the brakes on unsustainable biofuels in transport

    California is set to deal a blow to producers of unsustainable biofuels by agreeing a law that promotes mainly those fuels that lead to genuine carbon savings.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The agreement this week on California’s ‘Low Carbon Fuel Standard’, comes in light of overwhelming scientific evidence showing the impact that increased demand for agricultural crops is having on climate change. Scientists and institutions the world over have warned that much existing biofuel production has caused land elsewhere to be converted for food. Land such as forests, when converted for food crops leads to huge emissions of stored-up carbon. (1) The California law, uniquely, accounts for these indirect emissions.

    The standard, which President Obama has pledged to extend to the whole of the United States, follows adoption of a similar law in Europe last year (2).

    But the Californian law is fundamentally better because it tackles the issue of indirect land use change caused by biofuel production. Europe’s law does not, leaving a gaping hole in calculations of the real carbon savings of biofuels sold on the European market. As a result the current European law could actually increase emissions rather than reduce them.

    Nusa Urbancic, Policy Officer at Transport and Environment said:
    “The California standard is the world’s first attempt at cutting carbon emissions from fuels that also takes into account the crucial scientific evidence on indirect emissions from biofuels: it’s an important step forward.”

    “The science is as clear as crystal: many biofuels cause more emissions than they save. The Californian approach may not be perfect, but it can be improved as the science evolves. The EU should learn lessons, catch-up with California and revise its law.”

    “A joined-up EU-US policy would send the right signal to the world that bad biofuels, and other carbon intensive fuels such as those from tar sands, have no future in a world that is serious about tackling climate change.”

    (1) See ‘Biofuels and land use change: a review of independent studies‘, Transport and Environment, 2008

    (2) Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive.