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21 September 2010

Commission sued over biofuels as suspicions mount

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Europe's biofuels policy could cause unwanted side-effects equal to as much as 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases - roughly the annual emissions of Russia or India, official reports warn
That means biofuels could produce more carbon emissions than gasoline over a 20-year time frame.

The impact assessment emerged as climate campaigners sued the European Commission on Monday for withholding a different tranche of data on the negative consequences of fuels from crops such as maize, wheat and palm oil.

"Our efforts to understand and influence EU biofuel policy have been repeatedly hampered by attempts to restrict access to documents," activist lawyer Tim Grabiel of ClientEarth said as he launched the court action.

"The Commission is running an opaque operation," he said.

The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) said somewhere between 201 million tonnes and 1.092 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases would be released into the atmosphere due to the complex impact of "indirect land use change" from biofuels.

Those estimates were based on a scenario in which Europe's traffic burns no more than 7% of biofuels in diesel and gasoline by 2020.

But new strategy reports from the majority of the European Union's member states show they are actually intending to burn somewhere between 9 and 11% biofuels, implying that the real side-effects could be as high as 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

A Commission spokeswoman said seven of the 27 national plans were still missing, so an accurate assessment remains impossible. EU targets have been set for renewable energy in transport, but not specifically for biofuels, she added.


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