ActionAid Calls for Congress to Reform Biofuels Mandates

ActionAid Calls for Congress to Reform Biofuels Mandates
From, by Roisin Low

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) established in 1967 is a ‘clean air agency’ in California aiming to reduce air pollution, improve overall air quality and create new approaches to air pollution regulations. In 2007 the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) mandate was administered by CARB, in an attempt to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions released from petroleum-based transportation fuels. Recently there has been discussion of CARB readopting the LCFS. 

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard Issue Brief written by Fueling California highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the LCFS. The aims of LCFS as laid out in the report include:

  • Reducing the state’s dependence on petroleum

  • Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector

  • Stimulating the production and use of alternative, low-carbon fuels in California

  • Creation of 'green jobs'

Each of these goals are important, positive steps that should be taken in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, if the LCFS promotes corn ethanol and other food-based biofuels it will have a large impact on poor populations globally, threatening food security as well as land and water use.

New research published February 24, 2015 by international aid agency ActionAid uncovers that the amount of biofuels required to meet global biofuels mandates, including the Renewable Fuel Standard in the United States, will continue to drive a large increase in demand for land and make food prices on a global scale more precarious. Biofuels Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA Kelly Stone says, “Global demand for biofuels is skyrocketing, fuelled by these massive mandates backed by Congress. Large amounts of corn are being diverted away from food to meet these targets, making food prices around the world much more volatile.” ActionAid’s research shows global demand for food-based biofuels is expected to increase by 43 percent in the next ten years and account for close to half of the global demand by 2025

“Our research shows that an area of land bigger than the State of New York is needed to grow these extra biofuels to meet global demand,” says Kelly Stone. “Farmers in poor communities around the world are being kicked off their land to produce fuel for our cars and trucks. Congress has got this badly wrong and needs to act fast to fix its broken biofuels policy.”   

Although it is important to focus on improving climate change policy by improving regulations around greenhouse gas emissions and incentivizing ‘clean energy’ at what cost should these policies be enforced. ActionAid’s report shows that 145 billion liters of water are needed to produce the extra biofuels needed to meet global demand. This means increasing demand for land worldwide as well as increasing the number of people forcibly evicted from poor communities in order to create plantations to grow food for fuel.

ActionAid is asking Congress to reform the biofuels mandates in the Renewable Fuels Standard and stop food-based biofuels consumption mandates from being implemented. 

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