• Reuters report asks whether EU officials are changing science to suit EU policy

    Another two independent scientific studies have cast further doubt on the EU’s policy of pushing for biofuels to make up 10% of the transport market by 2020. And in a special report, the Reuters news agency says the general picture that emerges from a series of Commission documents is that EU officials might have ‘deliberately skewed the findings of scientific studies to fit their policies’.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Seldom has a month gone by over the past year in which there has not been a study casting doubt on the environmental benefits of biofuels. The Reuters special report, published last month, looks at all these studies alongside Commission’s internal documentation acquired through transparency laws. It paints a picture of the dilemma that appears to be growing in the Commission over the evidence that biofuels might not be a frontline tool in the fight against climate change but could actually be worse than fossil fuels they replace.

    Reuters says the evidence available so far ‘raises questions’ about the actions of Commission officials, and asks: ‘Could Europe be knowingly fuelling global warming under the guise of fighting climate change?’

    Emails obtained by the news agency show officials from the Commission’s agriculture department deleted sections of a report by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute which were critical of the environmental performance of certain biofuels. The Fraunhofer Institute, which had been commissioned by Brussels to look at EU’s policies to mitigate climate change, added a disclaimer to its research on biofuels after the Commission altered it before publication.

    The Commission is facing legal action from T&E and three other NGOs over failure to release documents giving scientific evidence about indirect land-use change. As Bulletin went to press, the Commission had responded to the action but its response was not yet public.

    The two new studies question the effectiveness of biofuels as a tool to fight climate change. Joanneum Research says there is a major flaw in the way carbon savings from forest-derived biomass are calculated in EU law, and that harvesting trees for energy therefore creates a ‘carbon debt’ that takes decades to repay. Meanwhile, CE Delft says most current biofuels are as bad as fossil fuels for the climate once indirect land-use change has been taken into consideration.

    The commissioner responsible for biofuels, Günther Oettinger, told Reuters, ‘We promote only sustainable biofuels and take the phenomenon of indirect land use [change] very seriously. If it is confirmed that there is indeed a serious problem related to indirect land use, we may adapt our legislation.’