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  • Why doesn’t the ethanol lobby join the fight for cleaner fuels?

    I am pleasantly surprised that the ethanol lobby accuses NGOs of lying only three times, not four. Rob Vierhout of ePure says that NGOs were wrong about the impacts of biofuels on global hunger, land grabbing, and about the subsidies they receive.

    That can only mean we speak the truth about the core issue in the current debate: the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from indirect land-use change (ILUC). That’s probably because the evidence is a bit too overwhelming.

    If we ever want to decarbonise our transport system and our transport fuels, we need to start by counting all the carbon released during production and use – directly as well as indirectly. Only then can we distinguish good fuels from bad. And only then can the good prosper.

    I won’t write about accusations 1 and 2: global hunger and land grabbing. Other organisations are better placed than we, as sustainable transport campaigners, are to address these issues.

    On number 3, subsidies for biofuels, let me set the record straight though. The revised estimate of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the institute we commissioned, points to public support in Europe of around €6bn a year. The International Energy Agency, not known for its sympathies towards NGOs, uses a different method and arrives at the even higher figure of $11bn a year in its 2012 World Energy Outlook. That our consultants make a mistake is regrettable, nothing more, nothing less. 

    And it does not change the fundamental issue: we Europeans spend billions of scarce resources prescribing fuels that often do more harm than good. That needs to change; only clean biofuels deserve to be supported.

    The ethanol industry is confident it can produce such ‘winner’ fuels. If that is true, then why does it end up fighting NGOs, instead of joining forces for full carbon accounting of fuels? That would be the real pleasant surprise.