Introduced in 2009 in an attempt to fight climate change, biofuel targets have increasingly become controversial as this resulted land being used to produce biofuel in place of food, impacting on supplies of food and contributing to increasing food prices. International Land Coalition estimates that around two-thirds of all large-scale land deals around the world in the past 10 years have been acquisitions in order to grow biofuel. Many such deals have displaced local communities with claims on the land or have involved laying claim to water rights. “Europe has helped spark a global rush for biofuels that is forcing poor families from their homes, while big business piles up the profits. Biofuels were meant to make transport greener, but European governments are pouring consumers' money down the drain, whilst depriving millions of people of food, land and water,” said Natalia Alonso, Head of Oxfam’s EU Office. According to Oxfam, in 2008 €3bn was spent in the EU on incentives for biofuel production, levels comparable to the cuts agreed in the Greek bailout mechanism earlier this year.
Oxfam’s alarm bell comes in the context of an informal energy ministers’ meeting in Cyprus last week where European Energy Commissioner Oettinger recognised the fact that the current EU policy had lead to “unfavourable developments such as the tearing down of rainforest to produce biofuel”. The ministers agree that anything over the 5% cap should be achieved without using food crops, but Oxfam calls the 5% cap itself ridiculous. “At this moment the biofuel use in the EU is only at 4.5%. So the new cap of 5% is actually an increase of what we’re using at the moment”, says Ruth Kelly, Oxfam’s economic policy advisor. The land used for growing the crops for biofuels in 2008, could have fed 127 million people according to Oxfam calculations revealed in its last week report, The Hunger Grains.