Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, January 14, 2008

EU Admits Failure Of Biofuel Program

The European Union is doing a better job of admitting to the unforeseen consequences of a government push for biofuels than the US government is. Washington should pay careful attention to this BBC story:
Europe's environment chief has admitted that the EU did not foresee the problems raised by its policy to get 10% of Europe's road fuels from plants.

Recent reports have warned of rising food prices and rainforest destruction from increased biofuel production. [As shown in this photo of new palms from Indonesia.]

The EU has promised new guidelines to ensure that its target is not damaging.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said it would be better to miss the target than achieve it by harming the poor or damaging the environment.
The EU approach to the "get out of jail free" card biofuels supposedly offered was to set targets, which EU nations than set out to meet by buying palm oil, causing rain forests to be cut and replanted with palms, and various ag-based fuel sources, causing food prices to rise.

Now, as is its wont, the EU will simply change their mandates, piling on more pages of regulations in an effort to correct the errors in their initial policy. Scratch an EU bureaucrat, find a former Soviet 5-year planner.

The US approach has less Soviet influence, with targets and incentives more than mandates, but it has produced similar results, creating a new market for corn -- fine with midwesterners, but as competition for crops drove up food prices, not so nice for the rest of us. And now with higher corn prices, biofuel manufacturers are struggling to find customers.

All this for a fuel that does nothing much at all to enhance the environment.

Here's an alternative idea on alternative fuels: Stop mandating, goal-setting and incentivising and let the market sort it all out. After all, note a commenter to the BBC post,
This is what happens when soundbite-politicians quote 'bad science' in their knee-jerk reactions to events.

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