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Biodiesel and the food crisis: 19 million bottles of sunflower oil end up in car tanks – every day


Food is becoming more and more expensive and hunger is growing in some parts of the world. Nevertheless, the EU burns tens of thousands of tons of food as biofuel, a report criticizes.

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Rape field in Nauen, Brandenburg

Photo: Jochen Eckel / IMAGO

Despite rising food prices, large quantities of rapeseed and sunflower oil still end up in the tanks of cars in the EU as biodiesel.

The Transport & Environment (T&E) organization calculated in a report published on Wednesday that 17,000 tons of rapeseed and sunflower oil would be burned every day, which is the equivalent of around 19 million bottles of cooking oil.

A total of 18 percent of vegetable oils worldwide would be processed into biofuel that is also suitable for consumption.

Consumption is particularly high in Europe: According to the report, 58 percent of all rapeseed oil and 9 percent of all sunflower oil in the past five years ended up in the tanks of cars and trucks.

Large amounts of soybean and palm oil, which are important staple foods in other regions, are also processed into biodiesel, including 50 percent of imported palm oil and 32 percent of soybean oil.

Currently, seven percent of vegetable oil products are usually added to diesel.

Gasoline is usually mixed with five to ten percent bioethanol, which is usually made from grain and beets.

The aim of these measures is to reduce the CO₂ balance.

In a previous study, T&E calculated that 10,000 tons of wheat are burned in cars in Europe every day in this way.

Hunger crisis: more than eleven million undernourished people

Months ago, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the loss of Russia and Ukraine as suppliers of grain and fertilizer could cause international food prices to rise by eight to 22 percent above the current, "already high, level".

The "least developed" countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, which were already suffering from high world prices for food and fertilizers before the conflict, are particularly affected.

The number of malnourished people worldwide would increase by 7.6 million if the consequences of the Ukraine war remained "moderate".

If the conflict drags on, up to 11.2 million more people could suffer from malnutrition, according to the FAO.

Coalition crash: FDP sticks to biofuel

The federal government is currently discussing limiting the use of agricultural products as fuel additives.

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) is working together with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to reduce the use of so-called biofuels from food and feed plants.

One idea is to reinterpret the greenhouse gas reduction quota (GHG).

Mineral oil companies in Germany have to use this quota to compensate for the CO2 emissions of their fuels.

So far, biofuels have been a popular way for oil companies to meet the requirements.

Biodiesel or bioethanol - as an admixture in E10 petrol - has so far been attractive for mineral oil companies.

Fuel suppliers were able to meet up to 4.4 percent of this GHG quota with biofuel.

This should be over by 2030, and funding is to be gradually reduced to zero.

How sustainable the admixture of biofuels actually is has been debated for a long time.

"It is not sustainable to pour wheat and corn into the tank," said Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) at the end of March.

The produce from the land planted around the world for this practice could feed starving people.

Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) made a similar statement.

However, there is still resistance from the FDP.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing is under pressure anyway because cars and trucks have so far failed to meet the climate targets.

His company therefore has high hopes for biofuels of all things.

They are a simple measure to reduce CO2, they say.

The Union, which also criticizes Lemke's plans, shares this view.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-06-23

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