Why does the European Union produce biofuels?

19 November 2020
Renewable Energy Directive
European Union
Quantitative storytelling
Used cooking oil
the Netherlands

A new article by MAGIC researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona takes a critical look at the narratives around biofuels production in the European Union. The authors seek to clarify the confusion created by the simultaneous use of non-equivalent policy discourses and address the inconsistency between long-term goals and short-term targets. To this purpose, the authors use quantitative storytelling, a new approach developed in MAGIC. They confront quantitative data on the production and use of biofuels at member-state (the Netherlands) and EU level against the official storytelling. The analysis shows that in the Netherlands the actual production and use of biofuels are motivated by economic incentives and trade opportunities rather than the original policy justifications to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security. Hitting biofuel targets has become a justification in itself. At EU level, the vast majority of the current (inadequate) supply of liquid biofuels still consists in first-generation biofuels, which are to be phased out. Advanced and food-waste-based biofuels like used cooking oil are unlikely to fill the void any time soon. The analysis shows incoherence among the narratives underlying the justification of policies and those used for their implementation. It is concluded that the quality of the biofuels policy debate could be improved by acknowledging the existence and influence of untold stories and hidden justification narratives.

For more details, see the full article: Cadillo-Benalcazar JJ, Bukkens SGF, Ripa M & Giampietro M (2021), 'Why does the European Union produce biofuels? Examining consistency and plausibility in prevailing narratives with quantitative storytelling', Energy Research & Social Science, vol. 71, article 101810. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101810 (freely downloadable).