The most recent study by the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E in the original acronym), indicates that due to Europe's greed for biofuels, four million hectares of forests will have been destroyed between 2010 and 2020, eliminating, for example, 10 percent of what remains of the world's favourable habitats for orangutans.
In a statement about the study, the Portuguese environmental association Zero, which is part of T&E, recalls that the 2010 renewable energy directive established a target for each member state for the transport sector of 10 percent renewable energy by 2020, which boosted demand for biodiesel based on soy or palm oil, crops that are no longer just for food purposes.
These oils are mainly produced in Asia and South America.
Since 2010, the report says, Europe has burned about 39 million tonnes of palm and soy biodiesel in its cars and trucks, emitting up to three times more carbon dioxide than through the fossil diesel it replaced.
According to T&E the European Union (EU) needs to phase out support for all biofuels from food crops by 2030. Zero argues it is essential that biofuels are produced primarily from waste.
"Virgin vegetable oils such as rapeseed, palm and soya, made up almost 80 percent of the feedstock used in the production of biodiesel in the EU in 2020, with total demand increasing despite overall fuel demand falling during the pandemic," the association points out in the statement.
Zero, citing official data, says that also in Portugal the focus on biofuels in the last six years has been notorious, from waste materials such as used cooking oils (59 percent in 2020), to virgin vegetable oils, in smaller quantities.
Official data indicate that for the year 2020 in Portugal more than 32 million litres of palm oil were used, corresponding to more than 10 percent of the total oils used in the production of biofuels, four times more when compared to 2017.
Francisco Ferreira, president of Zero, says, quoted in the statement, that the increase in demand for palm oil with destructive effects is done without consumers knowing it, and it is essential to "eliminate palm oil biofuels in the short term".
Portugal, says Zero, has an enormous dependence on imports of raw materials for the production of biodiesel, even when it comes to residual materials like used cooking oils, whose national contribution represents just 10.7 percent. This figure is well below the collection potential and indicates that much used oil is still thrown into the sewer, which also causes negative environmental impacts.
Regarding palm oil, the environmentalist association recalls that the Government agreed to place restrictions on biofuels containing it as of 2022. And it considers it important that when a European directive on renewable sources is transposed, this restriction is already included.
It is also essential, it adds, that "in the light of the best current scientific knowledge, there is a clear definition of the withdrawal of support for the use of other unsustainable food crops for the production of biofuels, reducing the levels of use of virgin cooking oils and consequent promotion of advanced fuels".
T&E is a non-governmental organisation established 30 years ago that advocates a mobility system without carbon dioxide emissions.