Today is a good day for stories about the world waking up to the complexities of getting biofuels right. This post by FarmPolicy is a great summary of EU biofuels with lots of good links. My sense is that is a weird twist on stereotypes, the US Congress is ahead of the EU on this, with stricter GHG standards and land-use protections (assuming we can get these provision well implemented).
Unfortunately, while the EU is moving towards setting minimum greenhouse gas emissions reduction standards for biofuels, they have so far chosen to skirt the issue of emissions from indirect land-use changes. According to a leading expert on biofuels policies around the world (who will go nameless because I don't have her permission to quote her yet):
For political reasons they couldn't get "indirect land use" included, so what they did was make the default values for direct land use extremely conservative in order to try to also capture some indirect land use impact there. That was the best they could do this time around.
The next month should be an exciting time on the indirect land-use emissions issue. With some luck we'll see at least one peer-reviewed article presenting the first estimates of these emissions drawing on an actual economic model of domestic and international land-use in agriculture. This will take the debate well beyond Dr. Farrell's "crude upper limit." (Available here.) Also I'm hopeful that we'll hear more about how EPA has been thinking of tackling this problem. Because of the work EPA staff did thinking through how to implement the 20-in-10 executive order, they are certainly among the foremost experts on how to integrate the indirect land-use emissions into regulations.
Then there is this article in the NY Times about EU countries redirecting indiscriminate, volume-based biofuels subsidies towards only biofuels produced with low lifecycle GHG emissions and the best production practices. These subsidies are one area where EU countries are pulling ahead, but we're working to fix the US biofuel tax credits ASAP. They all come up for reauthorization in 2010, so next year will be crunch time.
[On a personal note, I'm going on vacation next week, so it will be a bit longer than usual between posts.]