World Leaders Clash Over Biofuel Mandate Waivers

Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden have clashed at the recent G7 summit about plans to reduce the amount of grain supplied for biofuels, to help ease to sharp increases in the cost of food. It is reported that Germany is in favour of the plans, while Canada agrees with the US that the plan should not go ahead.

Biofuel production uses grain and vegetable oil crops, which are in short supply at the moment, because of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Biofuels are currently blended into petrol and diesel to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles.  Some countries have regulations about biofuel production to support farmers and help meet carbon net zero targets.

However, with fears of a global food crisis looming, and the cost-of-living spiralling even in the most developed economies, some policymakers have suggested that biofuel mandates should be temporarily relaxed. The biofuel crop shortage is being further driven by the soaring cost of oil and gas, as industry and businesses seek cheaper fuel alternatives.

Biofuels International reports that a British government official told Reuters: “We’re quite keen to look at the issue of biofuel mandates to ensure that crops are prioritised for food consumption and not necessarily for use in fuels.” The price of wheat and corn have risen by a quarter this year, and soybean oil prices have risen by a fifth.

The G7 gathering of world leaders in Bavaria will be dominated by discussions about how to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The consequences of the war, including global food shortages and soaring costs, will also be high on the agenda. The issue has already led to the launch of the Global Alliance for Food Security in May.

The US is however keen to protect its lucrative ethanol and biodiesel markets, and also to maintain climate change targets, The Independent reports. However, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is reportedly backing the UK’s proposals, although they do not expect to achieve an agreement.

Mr Johnson said: “While Vladimir Putin continues his futile and unprovoked war in Ukraine and cravenly blockades millions of tonnes of grain, the world’s poorest people are inching closer to starvation. From emergency food aid to reviewing our own biofuel use, the UK is playing its part to address this pernicious global crisis.”

He added: “Only Putin can end this needless and futile war, but global leaders need to come together and apply their combined economic and political heft to help Ukraine and make life easier for households across the world. Nothing should be off the table.”

The UK has a booming biofuel sector, but this brings its own problems. For example, the crops require extensive arable land to grow, which has led to more deforestation. They also require irrigation, which takes energy and uses up natural water resources.

The current geopolitical situation has brought the biofuel industry into renewed focus, with supporters pointing to the reduction in harmful emissions from fossil fuels, and detractors claiming that millions more people would have access to affordable food if crops were diverted back into the food chain.


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