EBB: ILUC impact modelization lacks transparency, academic value

By The European Biodiesel Board | March 16, 2016

An additional land use change impact modelization, the Global Biosphere Management Model (Globiom), has been published on the Commission DG Energy website. This publication was said to be on hold for review by the commission services, which recently indicated that a scientific peer review of the study would be desirable.

Globiom was performed by the IIASA research institute and Ecofys, an energy and climate consultancy, based on a model that has still not been disclosed nor validated by peers. The land use impacts for biofuels and biodiesel are totally inconsistent with the findings of the California Air Resources Board in September 2015—the same agency that investigated recent cars’ emissions rules violations in the US. In the revision of its low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) regulation, CARB found indirect land use change (ILUC) values for biodiesel that are four to five times lower than the commission’s results.

The European biodiesel supply chain is quite concerned about the lack of transparency around this publication and has doubts (shared by many experts) on the reliability of the information contained in this Globiom review.

The biodiesel supply chain shares the widespread doubts on the scientific transparency of the Globiom study. Despite various written and verbal requests to IIASA, the European Biodiesel Board and many other associations were refused access to the final dataset, definitions and methodologies retained to run the model. In a letter written by the Cabinet of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and addressed to the European biodiesel supply chain on Sept. 16, the European Commission acknowledged that a “scientific peer review of the study would be desirable” but also conceded that “if the model structure cannot fully be disclosed, such a review cannot meet the quality standards set by academic rules.” Given these acknowledgments, how can the industry and EU decision makers consider Globiom as a credible study, compliant with academic international standards? Such lack of transparency and public scrutiny further adds to the ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding the ILUC science.

The open process employed by the state of California and the CARB research board to set up its revised biofuels policy this year led to much more solid conclusions: technical input was peer-reviewed by a number of independent academic experts, while the draft law and environmental analysis were also open to public review. The ILUC values put forward in California’s new legislation define biodiesel as the most sustainable liquid fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 50 to 81 percent on average compared with petroleum.

“We share, with many other experts, reservations over the academic value and scientific reliability of this additional land use review,” said Raffaello Garofalo, secretary general of the EBB, speaking on behalf of the biodiesel supply chain. “Following strong pressures and transparency doubts by many stakeholders, the commission was obliged to publish this new land use review without any model disclosure nor a peer-review having been performed. The results obtained differ to a great extent from those put forward in the CARB legislation, an open and peer-reviewed process that led to ILUC values for biodiesel, which are four to five times lower than those found by the Globiom study.”

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