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Evaluating the Sustainability of the Eu Policy sample essay

The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (RED) required a 10% share of renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020; biofuels must emit a minimum of 35% less greenhouse gases (GHG) than the fossil fuels they replace, increasing to 50% for existing plants in 2017 and 60% for new infrastructure thereafter. The Fuel Quality Directive, setting a target of a 6% GHG reduction for fuels used in the transport sector in 2020. Biofuels are a liquid or gaseous fuel sourced directly from biological materials (biomass)(Mol, APJ 2007) Fig 1 conveying the typical sources, conversion techniques and type of biofuel product created.

First generation biofuels are classed as crops with readily accessible sugar, starches and or oils as their feedstock i.e. food crops (corn, maize, rapeseed, sugarcane) and second generation biofuels are feedstock’s that consist of lignocellulosic biomass (agricultural and forest production wastes: corn stalks, straw, switch grass) On the 17/10/12, the European Commission published a proposal to raise the climate benefits of biofuels and to acknowledge and limit global land conversion for biofuel production in the EU. The use of first generation biofuels has been limited to 5%; enabling stimulation towards the development of second generation biofuels needed to fulfil the outstanding 5%. Biofuels have become an incendiary issue recently with the environmental, economic and social sustainability impacts bringing more awareness to its development. Influencing factors such as, food vs. fuel, renewable energy regulations, technological advancement and funding, energy security vs. energy price (oil price increase), taxes and tariffs, trade distortion and traceability and certification requirements OTHER REFS are areas of concern and will ultimately guide this alternative energy industry.

REFERENCES Environmental Sustainability:

(UNEP Assessing Biofuels) state that biofuels should produce GHG emissions reduction compared to fossil fuels (Fig 2&3) along with a decrease in urban air pollutants (Fig 4), however this is wholly dependent on the type of feedstock, cultivation methods, conversion technology and energy efficiency (Mol APJ 2007) other factors including logistics and ILUC have to be accounted for.(Sharman, A 2010) ILUC will be considered when assessing the greenhouse gas performance of biofuels Fig 5 implicating the ‘serious’ consequence of ILUC when considering first generation feedstock; ranging from ̴110CO2/MJ (palm oil) to ̴ 50 CO2/MJ (sugarbeet). Williams PRD 2009 suggest that ethanol production from biochemical (greater cost reduction) and thermochemical conversion (wider range of synthetic fuels produced: aviation/marine)(Ralph EH Sims 2010) should result in GHG emission savings, however the adverse effects of this would be the increase demand on water resource (pollution), the production of solid waste streams and intensification of agriculture; producing monocultures (lack of biodiversity) of crops creating impacts of soil degradation, eutrophication and invasive plant species.

The biofuels sustainability criteria in the EU policy prevent the direct conversion of forests, wetlands and areas with a high biodiversity value (high C stock) for biofuel production; welcoming innovation for second generation biofuels that are able to use the residual streams from agricultural and forest industries (Londo, M et al 2010), used cooking oil (UCO) and tallow (Thamsiriroj, T Impact of 2011) and other lignocellulosic feedstocks(Ralph EH Sims 2010). Biodiesel produced from UCO and tallow have been shown to stimulate 69% and 54% GHG emission savings overall with UCO having a good energy balance (Thamsiriroj, T Impact of 2011)( (Thamsiriroj, T Critical review 2011)

Fig 2: Type of fuel vs amount of GHG emissions (%) compared to its overall environmental impact (%) Scharlemann, J.P.W. and Laurance, W.F., 2008, “How Green Are Biofuels?” Science 4 January 2008:Vol. 319. no. 5859, pp. 43 – 44. DOI: 10.1126/science.1153103

Fig 3: Well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions (in CO2-equivalents/km) versus total energy use for running a mid-size car over a distance of 100 km Copyright CPL Press

Fig 4:

Fig 4: Nitrous oxide emissions increasing with higher % biodiesel use (due to choice of feedstock (rapeseed/corn) that requires a N-fertiliser), PM, CO, HC decreasing with biodiesel use.

As the EU reference figure for GHG emissions from transport fuel is 83.8 kg CO2eq/GJ, this implies that emissions from a sustainable biofuel cannot exceed 54.3 kg CO2eq/GJ in the short term.

Fig 5: Bar chart showing the greenhouse-gas emissions from direct and indirect land-use change for different energy crops. Economic Sustainability:

Biofuels in general do have the ability to aid in the search for energy security, lowering the reliance on fossil fuels and contributing to rural development, import and export opportunities and increasing national security of energy (Mol APJ 2007) The relationship between the growing population, peak oil decline by 2015 (Owen et al 2005), land availability and biofuel production (UNEP ABiofuels) has potential impacts on food production, prices and scarcity; especially when associated with the developing countries and the global poor.(Mol, APJ 2007) The opportunity for developing countries to create an economy without the reliance on fossil fuels (De La Torre Ugarte, 2006) will have a significant impact on food availability, Di Lucia 2010 has suggested that the EU policy is driving an expansion of biofuels in developing countries, where large scale production of energy crops can be produced but if mismanaged will cause detrimental effects environmentally and socially; regarding the market approach policy as “unstable and thin” (fluctuating market prices and limited biodiversity and climate issues).

The World Bank, 2010 suggest that the combination of oil price, poor harvests and the use of commodities by financial investors have more of an impact on food prices than biofuel production and with models like KAPRI and GTAP PICTURES!!!! (Britz, W 2011), predictions can be made concerning the change in global trade and the land use associated with it,FIG TABLE pg 49ish governance ) Careful governance of biofuel production and trading will assist the success of biofuels, with trade barriers strengthening security of supply and enabling local production ( Marketable ‘biofuel’ is developed and guided by subsidies, funding and tax reductions/credits, hence trade distortion does not significantly occur at this stage when compared to fossil fuels; however “diversifying the supply can help hedge against escalating oil prices”

The World Bank suggest to promote the supply of diversification (FF to biofuels), is to establish and enforce a clear, stable and transparent regulatory framework including environmental regulations, the EU Strategy for Biofuels sets out a strategic approach to promote market growth of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels; set out around 7 policy areas in the EU Strategy for Biofuels report ;defining three main objectives: further promotion of biofuels in the EU and in developing countries, preparation for the large-scale use of biofuels, and heightened cooperation with developing countries in the sustainable production of biofuels.

Ajanovic,A 2012 suggests that second generation biofuels might become economically competitive between 2020-2030 once improvements to the conversion efficiency from feedstock to fuel, lowering of plant costs and that conventional diesel and petrol prices increase (CO2 based taxes). Fig 6 shows the projected outlook of transport fuel from second generation biofuels globally.

Fig 6: Global biodiesel production by feedstock: Biomass based biodiesel should represent almost 6.5% of total biodiesel production by 2019. Social Sustainability:

The main issue socially is food vs. fuel, with first generation biofuels still being a viable option for developing countries, the limitations on the use of crops is a pressing issue. Fig 7 displays the current land area required for US corn in food and fuel production. Fig 7: Extra farm land required to satisfy corn-based ethanol production for automotive use by 2012

An opportunity arises in the form of employment and contribution in reducing poverty in developing countries (Phalan, 2009) with estimates of 500,000 direct jobs being created in the Brazil. The biofuels industry requiring 100 times more workers per unit of energy produced than the fossil fuel industry and suggest that by 2020, 200-400 biofuel plants are needed to fulfil the 10% requirement of the EU policy; hence biofuels will provide a rural industry with an increased economy in these areas via labour intensive agriculture; especially in developing countries. Phalan, 2009 states that governments have an important role to ensure safeguarding the customary or informal rights of the rural poor. ‘Human rights in Brazil,2008 Amnesty International) informed of cases of forced labour and exploitation are common in the sugarcane sector; Proforest 2009 suggesting most workers are paid based on how much cane is cut.


Innovations and development of celluloysis and gasification (Berndes, G et al 2010) processes for second generation biofuels will help biofuels reach the proposed target set by the EU: “10% of transport fuel to be supplied by biofuels by 2020”. With increased customer awareness and suitable regulations and governance, biofuels can certainly help mitigate climate change and GHG emissions. (Mol APJ, 2007) ILUC is going to have to be taken into deep consideration when developing any ‘quick’ attempt to produce energy.(Lechon, Y et al 2011). The implementation of sustainability certificates will help to reduce the environmental and social factors associated with biofuel production (Jean-Francois Dallenmand, 2010) and research and continual development of 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels are essential for its longevity (Londo, M et al, 2010). Di Lucia, L 2010 suggests a network orientated approach, based on substantial involvement

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