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Europeans forced to drive with more rainforest-destroying biofuels

05 September 2013
by foeeurope -- last modified 09 September 2013

Europe’s drivers are being forced to fill their tanks with increasing amounts of rainforest-destroying palm oil, with reliance on the controversial biofuel set to rise even further, new figures released today (Monday September 9) show. According to the data, palm oil use has increased much more than predicted and is now at 20% of the biodiesel mix.


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The new analysis comes days before a crucial vote in the European Parliament on the EU's contentious biofuels policy. MEPs are under pressure to limit the use of biofuels which are contributing to climate change, deforestation and rising food prices.

Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Palm oil is driving mass deforestation, wildlife loss, community conflicts, and accelerating climate change. It is alarming to find that palm oil use in European cars is sky-rocketing, and will only increase further, unless MEPs put a halt to increasing biofuels. Drivers are unknowingly being forced to fill up with a fuel that is destroying rainforests, communities and the climate."

The new figures show that European citizens are driving with much higher quantities of damaging palm oil than previously thought – Europe has increased the palm oil used in car fuel by 365% over the past six years. Although most of the palm oil used in Europe is for food and cosmetics, 80% of the increase has been driven by biodiesel demand.

The increase comes despite repeated warnings about the unsustainability of using more palm oil.

Biodiesel made from oil palm is considered the most damaging biofuel on the European market. It is linked to rapid deforestation in South East Asia which is causing climate changing carbon emissions, forest fires and smog across the region. Palm oil plantations have also been associated with allegations of labour abuse and child labour, and hundreds of cases of land conflicts between communities and palm oil companies.

When consumers drive with palm oil biodiesel, the carbon footprint is thought worse than using normal diesel, mainly due to its indirect land use change (ILUC) impact.

Nur Hidayati, head of campaigns for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, said: "Civil society organisations in southern countries have watched the development of Europe's biofuels policy with anxiety. This enormous increase in palm oil demand in Europe is escalating deforestation, land grabbing, and conflicts in Indonesia. Biofuels demand must be capped and reduced otherwise Europe will only intensify the problems for Indonesian people affected by palm oil expansion."

Unless MEPs vote to limit demand for biofuels, EU reliance on palm oil will keep increasing to fulfil targets for 2020 According to the findings, the production of biodiesel from European crops is levelling-off, whilst palm oil use in biodiesel is expected to increase by a further 40%.

Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups.

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