The Hunger Grains

The fight is on. Time to scrap EU biofuels mandates.

This paper shows how concerns about land and food rights around the world, both major campaigning priorities for Oxfam, are closely linked to EU biofuel mandates.

In 2009, EU governments committed to sourcing 10 per cent of transport energy from renewable sources by 2020: they are set to meet this target almost exclusively using biofuels made from food crops.

  • Land grabs: Countries with poor protection of land rights are magnets for land deals – most of which are to grow crops that can be used for biofuels – which means that many land deals for biofuel production are ‘land grabs’, concluded without the consent of affected communities.
  • Production: If the land used to produce biofuels for the EU in 2008 had been used to produce wheat and maize instead, it could have fed 127 million people for the entire year.
  • Demand: On top of this, biofuel mandates are an incredible inelastic source of demand for food crops; by 2020, EU biofuel mandates alone could push up the price of some foods by as much as 36 per cent.
  • Climate change: Biofuel mandates are not even a solution to climate change; modeling shows that plowing up carbon sinks to meet EU biofuel mandates could be as bad for the environment as putting an extra 26 million cars on Europe’s roads.

It is completely unacceptable that we are burning food in our petrol tanks while poor families go hungry and millions are being pushed off their land. EU governments have it within their power to make a difference to the lives of millions of hungry people. It’s time to scrap EU biofuel mandates.

Key recommendations

  • Oxfam calls on EU governments to scrap biofuels mandates immediately.
  • Technically, so that they are not in contravention of EU law, this means that the EU 2020 target for 10% renewable energy in transport must also be scrapped when it comes up for review in 2014.
  • In 2012, EU governments have started discussing 2030 targets for renewable energy – it is crucial that no new target is set for renewable energy in transport as this is likely to be met almost entirely using biofuels.