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September 26, 2022

Biofuels become an environmental battleground

PALESTINE, IL – JULY 25:  A field of dead corn sits next to the Lincolnland Agri-Energy ethanol plant July 25, 2012 in Palestine, Illinois. This summer’s extended drought, which has scorched corn and soybean crops across the Midwest, is expected to impact the price of gasoline which, in most states, contains at least 10 percent ethanol. The price of ethanol on the Chicago Board of Trade has risen nearly 25% this year.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PALESTINE, IL – JULY 25: A field of dead corn sits next to the Lincolnland Agri-Energy ethanol plant July 25, 2012 in Palestine, Illinois. This summer’s extended drought, which has scorched corn and soybean crops across the Midwest, is expected to impact the price of gasoline which, in most states, contains at least 10 percent ethanol. The price of ethanol on the Chicago Board of Trade has risen nearly 25% this year. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The need to balance fighting hunger and saving the environment has made growing crops for fuel an ever more contentious subject.

Biofuels have long been a source of tension in Europe. Today’s energy and food crises, in conjunction with ever more ambitious clean energy targets, have put the practice of growing crops for energy back in the limelight. During a vote earlier this month in the European Parliament on the updated EU Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), members failed to support a call from green groups and some left-wing politicians to end the use of food crops in biofuels. A similar debate is rumbling on across the Channel, where a new study suggests that the UK government’s plans for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) could undermine the country’s food security.  

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