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Subsidies for Biofuels highly overestimated – Review shows great deficiencies in report


The amount of subsidies that biofuels received and will receive is approximately 50 to 60 percent lower than what has been claimed by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Transport & Environment, BirdLife International and the European Environmental Bureau. They had argued that biofuels received subsidies as high as 10.7 billion Euros in 2011. In a review of the study the NGOs based their allegations on, the consultancy Ecofys found that the subsidies were in part incorrectly calculated. For Biodiesel alone, the difference in 2011 is up to 3.7 billion from what the NGOs had said. The study that Ecofys reviewed was conducted by the Global Subsidy Initiative (GSI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and had been financially supported by the NGOs. These organizations used the high figure as an argument in their lobbying activities against biofuels. As a consequence, the special rapporteur on biofuels in the European Parliaments` Environmental Committee, Corinne Lepage, and the Member of the European Parliament Claude Turmes had both demanded for a change in the biofuels legislation, arguing that they were highly subsidized and using the wrong figures.

“Political decision-makers need to urgently reconsider their point of view towards biofuels if it was based on the false information from the GSI/IISD-Study that has been communicated by NGOs”, said Robert Figgener, President of the Association of German Biofuels Producers (VDB), the organization that had commissioned the review. “Ecofys shows that biofuels are not as highly subsidized as NGOs want us to believe. At the same time the iLUC-thesis is challenged by Prof. Finkbeiner, who is the chair of the ISO committee for Life-Cycle-Analysis. He says that ILUC-calculation is like looking into a crystal ball“, Figgener said.

“Although the review of Ecofys was only conducted on a rough basis, the roughness of our assessment does not explain the differences in the outcomes. We conclude that the outcomes of the GSI/IISD 2013 study on biofuels subsidies should be critically questioned”, said Matthias Spöttle who is the responsible researcher for the review at Ecofys. He explained that while the figures for the budgetary support had only to be recalculated on the basis of statistical data, Ecofys developed a new methodology to find out how high the market price support really is. They were convinced that the method GSI/IISD was using is incorrect.

While GSI/IISD claim that biofuels will receive 29 billion Euros until 2015 through budgetary support alone, Ecofys could not verify this as several underlying assumptions have been falsified.
The data that was used to calculate the subsidies was first published in an appendix. This appendix was changed by erasing a table that showed much of the underlying data. “Why GSI/IISD erased the table should be explained by these institutions” Figgener said.  

The GSI/IISD-Study has undergone a peer-review by staff from organizations like the OECD, Fraunhofer Institute, the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and Oxfam. “Considering the mistakes that have been made in the study we are wondering whether these people have really read the report”, Figgener said. He suggested that the institutions of the Peer Reviewers might think about checking with their experts whether a proper Peer Review has been conducted.

GSI/IISD have only last week revoked some of their findings and have announced that they will publish a revised version of the study on Friday the 23rd of August.