Minister: ban biofuel, it boosts famine

Biofuel containing corn should be banned from German petrol pumps, a minister has demanded, as droughts and a dramatic rise in food prices mean more of the world population is going hungry.

Minister: ban biofuel, it boosts famine
Photo: DPA

“Rising food prices mean that biofuel can contribute to increased world hunger. That’s why we need to suspend E10,” Development Minister Dirk Niebel told the ntv television station on Wednesday.

Niebel’s demand for an immediate stop to the sale of E10 biofuel at German petrol stations has been welcomed by German aid organisations.

E10 – which was introduced last year and has in any case proved unpopular among German drivers – contains 10 percent bioethanol produced from corn crops which could otherwise be used to make foodstuffs.

It was promoted as contributing to reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the 10 percent being renewable rather than fossil fuel.

“It’s unjust and irresponsible that people have to starve so that we can fill up our cars with an apparently clean conscience,” Rainer Lang, spokesman for the “Brot für die Welt” protestant aid organisation told the Westdeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.

The German World Hunger Association also welcomed Niebel’s suggestion that food production should be the priority in times of drought and famine and agreed that growing corn for biofuel was inappropriate given the dramatic rise in food prices.

“We need to consider in the cabinet how we can solve the conflict between the pump and the plate,” said Niebel.

The price of corn is currently rocketing as the worst drought for more than 50 years hits the USA. According to the UN, one in seven people on the planet – or 925 million – do not get enough to eat.

Meanwhile, the German biofuel industry has denied it exacerbates world hunger, wrote Die Zeit newspaper on Thursday.

“Only 4 percent of the German corn harvest went on bioethanol production last year,” managing director of the German Biofuel Industry Association (VDB) Elmar Baumann told the paper. A ban on E10 would do nothing to help the hungry in developing countries, he added.

DAPD/The Local/jlb

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German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.