Tests find rainforest-destroying biofuels common at filling stations - EU rules to blame

Press release - July 19, 2011
19 July 2011, Brussels – Drivers are unknowingly helping to destroy rainforests because of the growing use of harmful biofuels in diesel, tests at filling stations reveal.

Greenpeace took 92 diesel samples in nine EU countries, findinghigh rates of the most harmful biofuels.

A snapshot study of diesel sold at filling stations in nine European countries reveals that it is regularly blended with the most damaging biofuels, those produced from rapeseed, soy and palm oil. Official EU analysis [1] shows that the production of these three biofuels leads to deforestation and other indirect land use change that makes them more climate-damaging than fossil fuels [2].

Filling stations in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Austria had the highest amount of biodiesel overall, ranging from five to seven percent. French fuel had the most soy, Italian the most palm oil and Swedish the most rapeseed [3].

EU policies will drive up the use of biofuels from agricultural products by a predicted 170 percent by 2020, according to an analysis of government energy plans. Biodiesel will make up 71 percent of that figure, with Germany, France, the UK, Spain and Italy consuming the most.

Last December, the European Commission said it would review its options for dealing with the indirect land use change impacts of biofuels no later than July 2011, based on a precautionary approach and using the best available science.

Greenpeace EU forests policy adviser Sebastien Risso said: “Most holidaymakers won’t know they are running their vehicles on fuel that is meant to be green, but is in fact a dirty shade of brown. EU lawmakers know there is a problem, have committed to look at it and should now legislate against the most climate-damaging biofuels in favour of those that do significantly better. The longer they wait, the more the genie will be out of the bottle and the harder it will be to force it back in.”

Greenpeace is calling for the following EU policy changes:

  • Legislation should be introduced requiring energy suppliers to reflect the climate impact of indirect land-use change for different biofuel crops.
  • Biofuels that offer little or no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels should not count towards renewable energy targets or qualify for incentives.


Images of rainforest destruction for soy farming are available here, here, and here,

Greenpeace EU forests policy adviser Sebastien Risso 0032 (0)496 127009
Greenpeace EU press officer Jack Hunter 0032 (0)476 988584

[1] A leaked impact assessment from the European Commission shows that once indirect land use change is taken into account, most biofuels made from agricultural products deliver little or no climate benefit, with some, including palm oil, rapeseed and soy, worse than fossil fuels. See European Voice article ‘Commission study questions carbon dioxide benefits from EU biofuel’ and Reuters article ‘Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU’.

[2] Indirect land use change (ILUC) is the conversion of land-types that store carbon, such as forests, grasslands and peatlands, into farmland to grow crops for food, feed and fibres that have been displaced by fuel crops.

[3] Biodiesel tested: How Europe’s biofuels policy threatens the climateis the first study to test fuels at petrol stations and gives the most up-to-date analysis of fuel composition. It is based on 92 biodiesel samples, collected in May and June 2011, analysed by German fuel analysis centre ASG Analytik.