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BIOENERGY FOR EUROPE: WHICH ONES FIT BEST?

BIOENERGY FOR EUROPE: WHICH ONES FIT BEST?

88 5 Socio-economic and

88 5 Socio-economic and political analyses Conclusions on political factors • In order to successfully introduce or increase the cultivation of energy crops, not only laws and directives are needed but also the support from local authorities, environmental groups and farmers. • Land availability in the EU may in theory rise by up to 100 million ha. However, to dedicate a maximum of 10 % of this area to bioenergy is more realistic. An increased emphasis on extensification, nature development, new outlets and reduction of food imports leads to alternative uses of available land. • Environmental groups are in favour of renewable energy, but are worried about the effects of energy crops on the landscape (monocultures) and emissions of pesticides and fertilisers. They tend to be more in favour of perennial crops instead of the more intensive annual crops. • Despite the goal of opening up the energy market, there is no level playing field as yet. Major distortions are the differences in environmental regulations and in subsidies, giving fossil fuels advantages over renewables. The tax reliefs for biofuels which are in force in some Member States, the legal possibility for farmers to grow energy crops on set-aside land and national regulations and targets for the production of green energy help to overcome these competitive disadvantages.

6 Conclusions and recommendations As explained in Chapter 2, in this project ten different biofuels were assessed and compared to equivalent fossil fuels with regard to their environmental impacts and nine of these were investigated for the whole European Union. Eight European countries participated in this study for which also different biofuels out of these ten were investigated. This chapter provides a brief summary of the main findings presented in this report and subsequently conclusions and recommendations will be given. In accordance with the goals of this study and the chosen methodology, the following issues will be addressed: • Results of the comparisons ”biofuels versus fossil fuels” • Results of the comparisons ”biofuels versus biofuels” • Results of the comparisons between the countries for each biofuel • Results of the socio-economic and political analyses • Conclusions and recommendations I Results of the comparisons "biofuels versus fossil fuels” The purpose of the comparisons between the various biofuels and their fossil counterparts investigated in this project was to show the environmental advantages and disadvantages of the different fuels in the various countries involved as well as the European Union. This was done by means of life cycle analyses (LCA). Several environmental impact categories were investigated for this purpose. It was found that for some of these no quantitative results could be obtained within this project that were reliable enough for a sound scientific assessment. This was partly due to the lack of sufficiently developed methodology and partly to the lack of available data, given the scope of this study. The following categories were assessed quantitatively and yielded results that can be regarded as very reliable: • Use of fossil fuels • Greenhouse effect • Acidification • Eutrophication • Summer smog In addition, the categories/parameters below were also assessed quantitatively but yielded much less reliable results. • Ozone depletion by nitrous oxide • Human toxicity • Ecotoxicity • Persistent toxicity • Ecosystem occupation • Harmful rainfall The net effect of nitrous oxide regarding ozone depletion is not ascertained as yet, as explained in Chapter 3.4.2. The results are included in the graphs but should be regarded with caution. The category human toxicity was also included in the result diagrams, but should be taken into consideration with care, as the data are of a lesser reliability than those for the categories in the first list above. The categories ecotoxicity and persistent toxicity were found to yield results too unreliable for further assessment. Finally, the category biodiversity and soil quality was investigated regarding four parameters, for two of which quantitative results were obtained which again however did not possess a satisfactory level of scientific reliability. It must be concluded that for the toxicity the lack of data concerning fossil fuels made the systems incomparable. For the biodiversity and soil quality categories further methodological developments are required before these can form a reliable part of a life cycle assessment.

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