IEA’s sustainability report is deceptive

The International Energy Agency has claimed that biofuels can provide up to 27% of world transportation fuel by 2050. The roadmap claims that biofuels, which will be necessary to hit […]

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By Tom Gibson

The International Energy Agency has claimed that biofuels can provide up to 27% of world transportation fuel by 2050. The roadmap claims that biofuels, which will be necessary to hit carbon reduction targets, “can increase in a sustainable way.”

The report claims to show how global biofuel consumption can increase in a sustainable way- from 55 million tonnes of oil equivalent today, to 750 mtoe in 2050. Meaning the global share of biofuel in total transport fuel would grow from 2% today to 27% in 2050.

Some groups have hit out at such claims, mostly over the fact that an increased dependency on biofuels, which rely on recycling biomass, will endanger global agriculture through indirect land use.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Food Sovereignty programme co coordinator at Friends of the Earth, told ELN that the report might be misguided: “It seems that a lot of it is out of step with reality. There are so many caveats in the report.”

Specifically, the IEA’s report claims one billion tonnes of biomass residues and wastes would be needed to provide 27% of transport fuel, which would need to be supplemented by production from around 100 million hectares of land- around 2% of total agricultural land.

Ms Chandrasekaran disagreed: “100 million hectares is more like 10% of arable land- the report is deceptive as it will obviously affect farming.

“Biofuels have the potential for small scale support, but large scale is not an option. Targets, such as those in the EU mandate need to be scrapped.”

The IEA say in their report that the transition to biofuels was important to reduce global emissions, but efficiency would still be the most important factor in hitting carbon targets.

Bo Diczfalusy, the IEA’s Director of Sustainable Energy Policy and Technology said: “Government action is needed to provide a stable, long-term policy framework for biofuels that allows for sustained investments in biofuel expansion. Specific support measures that address the high investment risk currently associated with pre-commercial advanced biofuel technologies will be vital to trigger industry investments in first commercial plants.”

Ms Chandrasekaran was critical of the agency for giving big businesses the opportunity to cover their tracks, “Criteria for sustainability is just a smokescreen for business as usual.”