CPE/European Farmers Coordinationhttp://www.cpefarmers.org
February 9th, 2007
Energy, climate, agriculture
The industrial agro-fuels currently developed are fooling farmers and taxpayers.
They will contribute to solve neither the agricultural crisis, nor the climatic crisis.
They will enter in competition with the food production.
The importance of the climatic crisis obliges us to change the agricultural, trade and energy policies urgently.
The farms can contribute to the energy production by other ways that those currently developed with great subsidies.
Notice : we prefer to use the term of "agro-fuel", instead of "bio-fuels" (oil also is a product resulting from living beings),
1) Energetical and economical Inefficiency
It is an error to produce fuels industrially starting from corn, beet or rapeseed. These industrial agro-fuels resulting from intensive annual cultures have a very low energy effectiveness (1) . (negative for corn ethanol – only 1,06 for wheat ethanol (1,00 =same energy used to produce it as energy in the final product) - 1,14 for beet ethanol - 1,66 for rapeseed methylic ester - these figures are respectively 1,35 -1,25 - 2,23 if we integrate the savings generated by the use in animal feed of the by-products). For raw rapeseed oil pressed on the farm, the results are better: 1,88 and 3,8. Ethanol from sugar cane has the best results. But Europe does not produce any.
It is thus better to privilege a better energetical autonomy of the farms by supporting raw rapeseed oil rather than agro-fuel plants of which the energetical and climatic profitability is very disputed and of which economical profitability depends on large subsidies, either direct, or indirect through taking taxes off.
The settlement of these plants close to large harbours shows that the priority will be given to the import of cheaper tropical agro-fuels .
The energy nonsense of the current orientation has been just confirmed by the European industry of fertilizers (2), which plans an increase in the consumption of nitrate fertilizers linked with the expansion of the agro-fuels. Let us point out how the nitrate fertilizers account for approximately 40% of the energy consumption of the farms!
The development of 2nd generation fuels resulting from biomass (wood, cellulose, organic waste) seems much more promising from the energy point of view than the annual intensive cultures, providing that soil organic matter is preserved.
2) in competition with the food production in Europe and in the world
The only incorporation of 5,75% of agrofuels in oil fuels would require 20% of the present grain area. By using the whole agricultural area of the EU, one could provide only 30% of the present needs for fuels. If one chooses to import these products, one moves the problem of competition with food to these countries and one maintains a great energy dependence of Europe .
Instead of giving the priority to the reduction of transport, the industrialized countries develop great projects of agro-fuel production in tropical countries like Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil,... That is done to the detriment of food security of the populations, of biodiversity (the primary forests in Sumatra are changed into large plantations of palm trees for oil, completely unproductive from the biodiversity point of view).
It is necessary to urge a wide debate in Europe on the priorities to be given to the use of land ( food production, urbanization, infrastructures, energy, natural reserves...). It will have there to be included the fact that a massive production of meat, characteristic of the industrialized countries, needs much land.
3) more legitimate subsidies than the current CAP subsidies?
The CPE wonders about the massive propaganda of the agro-industrial lobby in favour of the agro-fuels, with the support of the European Commission. Facing the lack of legitimacy of the current CAP support from the international and social points of view and by anticipating a strong fall of the agricultural budget after 2013, one tries to direct the public opinion (more sensitive to the European energy dependence than to the food dependence because badly informed) towards the need for subsidizing the production and the use of agro-fuels. That would guarantee to the large farms (and industry) the maintenance of large subsidies.
4) the farms can contribute positively to the current crisis:
- if we modify the modes of production (to decrease in priority the consumption of nitrate fertilizers) towards more autonomous and energy saving farms
- if we support the production of crude oil pressed on the farm or locally, as well as biogas
- if we support the development of solar electricity on the roofs of the agricultural buildings
5) It is necessary to change the agricultural and trade policies
The current climatic urgency forces to us to give up the logic of the current CAP and WTO, which increases transport, to relocate the economy , giving priority to efficiency, employment and environment.
(1) see EDEN study: ww.espoir-rural.fr
(3)See the NGO letter to the EU - http://www.corporateeurope.org/Open_Letter_EU_biofuels