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VIDEO: Europe’s winter heatwave and the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard – The Week in Sustainability

January 4, 2023
Article

January 2–6, 2023

About The Week in Sustainability

Each week, Sustain.Life’s sustainability team offers commentary about the week’s most pressing issues and stories in sustainability and ESG. Watch every episode here.

Winter heatwave in Europe  

It’s summer where it shouldn’t be. Many European countries have recorded their warmest January day ever. These areas are seeing temperatures—66°F (19°C) in Poland and 77°F (25°C) in France—they’d usually see in late spring or even summer.

So far, this winter “heatwave” has impacted about 15 countries, including Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, and Germany.

Why’s it matter?

Though the combination of a mass of warm air generated off the west coast of Africa and an unusually warm sea surface have caused the weather event, these phenomena don’t fully explain the staggering temperatures. Regardless, the impact will be far-reaching and potentially catastrophic. Prematurely melted snowpack will result in lower freshwater levels later in the year, warmer lake temperatures, and possibly irregular annual flood events. Additionally, early blooms on fruit trees and shrubs followed by a freeze can prevent fruiting entirely, and pests and plant diseases are more likely to emerge and spread. 

The EPA proposes higher “renewable” fuel volumes 

The EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program requires fossil fuel refiners and importers to blend a certain percentage of renewable fuel (e.g., corn-based ethanol, manure-based biogas, and wood pellets) into petroleum-based fuels. It’s why most gasoline in the U.S. includes some ethanol (typically about 10%).

And now the EPA has proposed close to doubling the target volumes and percentage over the next three years. Seems reasonable, right? Well, the move has sparked a heated debate highlighting the drawbacks of biofuels. The renewable fuel and corn industries are in favor since most renewable fuel is created from corn products. However, environmentalists point out the damaging impacts of industrial agriculture, which aren’t limited to GHG emissions. It impacts biodiversity and water and soil quality, too.

Let’s not gloss over the fact that this is a distraction in a transition to electric vehicles—more reliance on biofuels means we don’t ween ourselves off fossil fuels. It’s just a sub-sufficient stand-in that has slightly lower emissions. 

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At Sustain.Life, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Written by practitioners and experts, articles are grounded in research and experience-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by our team of sustainability professionals to ensure content is accurate and aligns with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.
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The takeaway

– European countries are recording their warmest January day ever. Some areas are seeing temperatures they’d usually see in late spring or even summer.

– The U.S. EPA has proposed changes to its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The move has sparked a heated debate that highlights the drawbacks of biofuels.