C Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Doris
1. The pharmaceutical industry has long exploited plants
as a resource. In recent years, research into agronomy and biotechnology
has led to a massive growth in the use of plants as a renewable
source of raw materials. But we need to guard against overestimating
the advances that have been made in the area of renewable resources.
2. In view of crude oil prices that spiked at over US$150 per
barrel in 2008, it might seem advisable to turn, as an alternative,
to those plants that are suitable for the production of agrofuel
of all sorts. If revenues can be achieved and profits can be made
in this way, agriculture worldwide will avail itself of this opportunity.
3. The hunger for energy is rising, not only in the so-called
developed, highly industrialised world. It has also reached the
emerging economies (BRICs) and, of course, the developing nations.
It is not without reason that one of the key indicators of a country’s
progress, productivity and wealth is the amount of energy it consumes.
4. Energy that the industrial nations of the West do not need
can be easily absorbed by, for example, China and India, because
these countries do not have enough resources of their own.
5. So it is understandable that countries like Brazil, with its
production of ethanol from sugar cane, are trying to become “global
players” in this field. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil
has calculated that he could have one fourth of all of the automobiles
in the world running on Brazilian ethanol. In doing this, he could
ensure prosperity for his country and create jobs for its people.
Of course, it would be important to ensure that the rules embodied
in the ILO conventions are complied with, and that the ethanol production
is not encouraged at the expense of inhumane working conditions.
6. With respect to land use, it is simply not the case that the
use of renewable resources endangers the supply of food for the
population. Only a fraction of arable soil is used for this purpose.
Moreover, even here in Europe, EU policies have led to wide stretches
of arable land being left fallow or used merely for grazing. If
we use this land or other untilled, less fertile earth for renewable
resources, we would in no way be endangering food supplies, nor
would there be any noticeable effect.
7. The question of making use of the opportunities that biotechnology
offers in the area of renewable resources has hardly been discussed.
With the aid of genetically modified plants, the content of oil
or starch, or the percentage of fibre can be increased to the extent
that a much higher yield can be realised on a much smaller area
of land. Of course, only those plants that have been shown to hold
no risk to humans, animals or the environment can be approved for
use. It would be very helpful if the Council of Europe member states
would act to establish standards, not only in respect of research,
but also for the use of such plants. The knowledge gained from biotechnological
research is already being applied elsewhere when these plants are
superior to others, but not always under the conditions and restrictions
upon which we would want to make their use dependent.
8. When considering the question “food or fuel?”, there is one
error that we cannot let ourselves commit: the world not only has
an appetite for energy that could be satisfied in part by renewable
resources – the world as a whole is growing hungrier. This is not
just due to the fact that the human population is growing and will continue
to grow rapidly; but it will also mean that the demand for food
in the form of meat will also grow enormously in the future. As
a result, there will be a greater need for grazing land – land that
was formerly used for other crops or for forests – as well as a
need for more water (for both plants and animals). A concomitant rise
in emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, will be the consequence.
9. For these reasons, the report’s concentration on agrofuel
can reflect only certain aspects of the problem. I am not convinced
that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should
play referee between the EU Commission, the European Parliament
and the scientific community. Science, in particular, can provide little
or no confirmed findings, because the necessary research is by no
means yet complete. On the contrary, it is just getting started.
10. It is nevertheless right for the Parliamentary Assembly to
call on the member nations of the Council of Europe to take due
precautions when promoting the use of agrofuel as part of their
national strategies for renewable energy.
11. The fundamental principle that must be observed is that the
best energy is the energy that does not get consumed. Today, energy
for heating can be almost completely conserved by using the appropriate
building techniques, and the portion that is consumed (for hot water,
for example) can be procured through alternative means.
12. People will tend to become more mobile. The necessary energy
can be produced by using new technologies such as hybrid, hydrogen
or flywheel propulsion. More funding should be made available for research
and development in this area. Mobility must remain an inexpensive
proposition if certain sectors of our populations are not to be
13. Mass public transport (both local and long-distance) must
be expanded, especially with regard to frequency. It would be very
desirable if mass transportation, especially in regions of urban
concentration, might be offered free of charge, to the benefit of
both the environment and people’s mobility. We cannot, for example, offer
mass transport as the answer to the Chinese people’s desire for
more mobility, when we ourselves continue to insist on individual
14. Finally, we should think about how to retrieve the many hidden
inventions lying dormant in the European and national patent offices
and put them to work in the search for new sources of energy. It
is highly probable that new motors or energy recovery systems have
already been invented, but they are not being put to use because
their inventors cannot afford the legal, development and production
costs. But perhaps the current financial crisis will present us
with an opportunity to provide inventors and developers with start-up
capital, thereby giving them a chance to stimulate an innovative
economy and create new jobs.
Reporting committee: Committee
on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs.
Committee seized for opinion: Committee
on Economic Affairs and Development.
Reference to committee: Reference
No. 3398 of 21 January 2008.
Draft opinion unanimously
approved by the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development on
29 January 2009.
Secretariat of the committee: Mr
Newman, Mr de Buyer and Mr Chahbazian.