palm oil

Economic Researcher: EU Biofuel Policy Not Based on Science


Gernot Pehnelt, Ph.D.

Gernot Pehnelt, Ph.D., director of GlobEcon, released a study (pdf) that says the Renewable Energy Directive discriminates against foreign biofuels.

“European Policies Towards Palm Oil: Sorting Out Some Facts,” demonstrates that the default assumptions embedded in the directive about the ecological impact of foreign biofuels reflect politics, not scientific or economic reality.

Warning that the side effects range from political friction and trade disputes to severe economic handicaps for developing countries, Pehnelt explains: “While the use of biofuels across the EU is rising, the chorus of environmental activists opposing their use is, too. Sadly, many of the claims that foreign biofuels, specifically palm oil, are a threat to the environment are seriously flawed, some even completely unfounded.

palm oil 

Palm oil. Image courtesy of, administered from Malaysia.

“This study makes a strong case that the Renewables Directive discriminates against non-EU producers of biofuels, such as Asian palm oil. The EU has embedded protectionist measures into the Directive at the behest of anti-development environmentalists and the uncompetitive European biofuels industry. These measures set unfair values on greenhouse gas savings for foreign biofuels, thus precluding market access.

“Furthermore, the report demonstrates the rich biodiversity in oil palm plantations, the excellent crown cover oil palms provide and the yield per hectare advantages of this low-energy, low-fertilizer crop.

“Perhaps most importantly, palm oil acts as a substantial driver of economic growth in the developing world, drastically reducing hunger and poverty in regions that actively cultivate this valuable crop. It’s time for Europe to not only recognize the energy and environment benefits of palm oil but also the suffering in low-income, tropical countries that palm oil critics continue to perpetuate.”

Gernot Pehnelt is founder and director of the independent research and consulting institute GlobEcon in Jena, Germany, and a research associate at the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE). From 2002 to 2004, he worked as a research associate and consultant at the BIfA Environmental Institute in Augsburg, where he primarily conducted benchmarking studies.

comments powered by Disqus