Researchers say rapeseed biodiesel GHG savings are questionable

By Ron Kotrba | August 15, 2012

Researchers from the German research institute GlobEcon say they have analyzed the greenhouse gas life-cycle emissions of rapeseed biodiesel using the same basic methodology and background data used in Europe’s Renewable Energy Directive and were unable to reach even a 30 percent GHG emissions reduction from the baseline petroleum diesel, let alone the 35 percent required by the RED to be classified as sustainable.

In a paper titled “Uncertainties about the GHG Emissions Saving of Rapeseed Biodiesel,” Gernot Pehnelt and Christoph Vietze write, “In most of the scenarios, rapeseed biodiesel does not reach the GHG emissions saving values using the formula contained in RED. Neither the RED typical value for rapeseed oil (45 percent) nor even the lower default value (38 percent) can be supported by the analysis. Furthermore, most of the scenarios indicate that rapeseed biodiesel does not reach the 35 percent threshold required by the EU Directive for being considered as sustainable biofuel. In the standard scenario, we calculate a GHG emissions saving value of not even 30 percent, which is not only well below the GHG emissions saving values (default and typical) that can be found in RED, but also far below the 35 percent threshold.” 

The researchers write that the GHG emissions saving values of rapeseed biodiesel stated by the EU are “more than questionable.”

“Given these striking differences as well as the lack of transparency in the EU’s calculations, we assume that the EU seems to prefer ‘politically’ achieved typical and default values regarding rapeseed biodiesel over scientifically proven ones,” conclude Pehnelt and Vietze. 


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