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Europe says biofuel costs more than helps { January 18 2008 }

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Internal EU report casts doubts on its biofuel strategy
January 18, 2008

BRUSSELS (AFP) An internal European Commission study, seen by AFP Friday, criticises an EU plan to boost the use of biofuels in transport, concluding that their costs outweigh the benefits.

A Commission spokesman downplayed the study and insisted that the use of biofuels remained at the centre of its strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

The unpublished working paper by the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission's in-house scientific body, makes uncomfortable reading for the EU's executive body ahead of a meeting Wednesday where it is to detail a plan for biofuels to make up 10 percent of all transport fuels in the EU by 2020.

The cost-benefit study looks at whether using biofuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves security of supply and creates jobs and delivers an unenthusiastic opinion on all three counts.

"What the cost-benefit analysis shows is that there are better ways to achieve greenhouse gas savings and security of supply enhancements than to produce biofuels," says the report.

"The costs of EU biofuels outweigh the benefits," the researchers state.

EU taxpayers would have to fork out an extra 33-65 billion euros (48-95 billion dollars) between now and 2020 if the European Commission proposals go ahead, according to the study.

European Commission spokesman on energy Ferran Tarradellas Espuny stressed that the study was just a working paper and one of several opinions being taken into consideration as talks continued ahead of Wednesday's decision.

But he made clear that that the 10 percent biofuels objective for vehicles remained.

"Economically speaking there is only one option, that is biofuels," he told a press conference.

"It is good for the environment, it is good for transport and it is good for European agriculture".

On agriculture however the study warns that the proposed EU measures will require the use of huge swathes of land outside of Europe and it questions whether it will make any greenhouse gas savings at all.

Green groups warn that the EU plans could lead to forest clearances for biofuels or for food crops displaced by biofuel plantations as farmers switch over.

The report concludes that by using the same EU resources of money and biomass, significantly greater greenhouse gas savings could be achieved by imposing only an overall biomass-use target instead of a separate one for transport.

"The uncertainties of the indirect greenhouse effects, much of which would occur outside the EU, mean that it is impossible to say with certainty that the net greenhous gas effects of the giofuels programme would be positive," the study says.

Adrian Bebb, Agrofuels Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe, called it "a damning verdict on the EU's policy for using biofuels."

"The conclusions are crystal clear -- the EU should abandon biofuels and use its resources on real solutions to climate change," he said of the leaked report.

The Commission's plans for biofuels are part of a broader energy strategy to cut down on greenhouse gases to be unveiled on Wednesday.

EU leaders have pledged to increase renewable energy use by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels, with biofuels to make up 10 percent of all transport fuels used by then.

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