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EU Diesel Drivers Burn 100× More Palm Oil Than All Oreo Cookies In World

Transport & Environment (T&E) has release a report that shows that EU drivers burn more palm oil in their diesel fuel in a year than is put in all of the Oreo cookies in the world each year.

Junk food is well known for containing a lot of palm oil. If you’re concerned about deforestation from palm oil (a huge issue for our atmosphere as well as biodiversity), you have probably seen the campaigns urging people to not buy certain brands and urging producers of such food to use something other than palm oil. I don’t recall seeing any campaigns regarding palm oil and diesel, or even big awareness-raising campaigns about the link. Until now.

Transport & Environment (T&E) has release a report that shows that EU drivers burn more palm oil in their diesel fuel in a year than is put in all of the Oreo cookies in the world each year.

This comes in part because palm oil use in “biodiesel” jumped 7% in the EU last year as regulations pushed industry to “clean up” diesel pollution. (Naturally, CleanTechnica readers know the best way to clean up cars is to switch to electricity.) A record 4.5 million tonnes of palm oil were put into biodiesel in the EU.

For an especially “fun” view of the growing trend of palm oil in fuel compared to palm oil in food, see this short graphic:

The positive part of that trend is that the anti–palm oil food campaigns seem to be working, with palm oil dropping firmly from such uses.

“According to the latest EU data, 45% of global palm oil expansion since 2008 has caused deforestation,” T&E shares. “This is why palm oil diesel is three times worse for the climate than regular diesel. On average, food- and feed-based biodiesel emits at least 80% more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil diesel.”

Here’s a look at the palm oil refineries in Europe:

Cristina Mestre, biofuels manager at T&E, said: “The madness of burning food in cars should stop as soon as possible. This failed biofuels policy jacks up global food prices, drives deforestation and climate change, and threatens both local communities and endangered species. EU leaders have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to phase out all food-based biofuels including palm oil as of next year.”

One unfortunate part of this story is that biofuels were long seen and pitched as a kind of clean alternative to conventional diesel and gasoline. Lacking a full perspective on the matter, many governments — including in Europe — encouraged, subsidized, or even required the use of biodiesel without respect to the destructive source of it.

The EU is moving away from support of biodiesel. “Last year, the EU made it clear that countries are no longer obliged to use food — and feed-based biofuels after 2021 to meet the bloc’s renewable energy targets — but EU countries can still promote them if they want to. Member states are now drafting laws to implement the Renewable Energy Directive II and can phase out food — and feed-based biofuels as soon as 2021.”

Just a few countries host the bulk of biodiesel production based on palm oil, as you may have gathered from the map above. A full 81.5% of 2019’s palm oil diesel production in Europe came out of Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. T&E and a few other organizations are now pushing a #NotInMyTank campaign on Twitter and beyond “to urge the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands to end public support for food-based biofuels including palm and soy oil diesel as soon as next year.”

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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