On December 5, GMF hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill with Congressional staff to discuss biofuels policy. At the luncheon GMF Transatlantic Fellow Tim Searchinger and Ariel Brunner, EU Policy Officer at Birdlife International, presented the history of the policy debate in both the U.S. and EU and specifically discussed the most recent developments in the ongoing European debate around the renewable fuels directive.
During the course of the discussion, Searchinger explained the logic behind indirect land-use change and how that plays out in practice. Citing examples of corn in the U.S. and sugar cane production in tropical climates such as Brazil, he outlined the differences and comparative dangers for deforestation and increased pressure on food prices. Brunner fleshed out the debate on the European side, talking about the specific dangers of palm oil production on peat land and food prices in the developing world. Ariel also pointed out that given the limited land available in Europe, any mandate calling for increased biofuels would most likely increased production outside of the Eurozone, as opposed to spurring domestic growth in that industry.
The questions and subsequent discussion with the participants focused on ways forward and options for adapting current policy. Linking deforestation to biofuels was seen as an effective tool for talking about some of the dangers that increased biofuel production poses. The subject of second generation biofuels was also broached as a possible solution to the food competition problem. Both Searchinger and Brunner pointed out that while in theory this technology could help, it is nowhere near effective implementation and the timeline for development of the technology does not meet the demands of our current climate and energy situation.