French study reinforces evidence that ILUC is inconclusive

By The European Biodiesel Board | June 28, 2013

The European Biodiesel Board welcomes the publication of a study which demonstrates that on the basis of yield improvement estimates by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the indirect land use change (ILUC) factors that are calculated in the models used by the European Commission to justify the proposed EU-wide legislation are inconclusive and can vary considerably depending on assumptions made. The study produced by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and titled The land use changes of European biodiesel: sensitivity to crop yield evolutions reveals an 80 percent reduction in the assessed ILUC effect, with a value for biodiesel of 10 gCO2eq/MJ, compared with 55 gCO2eq/MJ used by the EC for the basis of its legislative proposal.

The study examines how the different models—IFPRI, GTAP-BIO as well as FAPRI and AGLINK- COSIMO—factor in the evolution of the increasing yield of cultivated areas in the EU. It concludes that these models use very low values for increasing yields, which contradicts previously observed data trends and are much lower than assumptions used in the production forecasts put forward by international institutions such as the FAO. The study also reveals that ILUC induced by the development of biofuels will have a significant impact on the interaction of economic mechanisms such as food and feed demand, the evolution of agricultural technologies and the value of coproducts, which are difficult to evaluate.

Welcoming the publication of the report, Raffaello Garofalo, secretary general of the EBB, noted that “crop yield evolutions, among other questionable parameters used by the European Commission in models for ILUC assessment, are considerably lower than those observed in other statistics and used in FAO projections. The study, however, shows that a consistent yield calibration in models leads to simulation results reducing by 80 percent the ILUC figures for biodiesel (10g CO2/MJ against 55gCO2/MJ in IFPRI).”

As it stands, the current European Commission ILUC proposal risks dramatically changing the policy framework within which the EU biofuels chain operates. Ahead of the vote by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) committee on July 8, EBB calls on MEPs to reflect on the findings of this study and reject the proposals put forward by the ENVI committee’s rapporteur MEP Corinne Lepage to incorporate the estimated ILUC factors into the biofuels sustainability criteria. Conventional fuels will be needed beyond 2020 until advanced biofuels are available in sufficient scales and commercially viable. The EC should further analyze other ILUC mitigation practices such as the use of coproducts, manufacturing efficiencies and production on vulnerable, abandoned or unused land.

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