Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 7, 2016

Contacts:  Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, +44 131 6232 600,
Kevin Bundy, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7100 x 313,    

United Nations Urged to Withdraw Misleading Biofuels Report

Error-filled Document Touts Shuttered Plants, Bankrupt Company

OAKLAND, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and seven other groups today urged the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to withdraw a misleading and inaccurate report on “second-generation biofuels” — fuels made from wood, grasses or crop residues.

In a letter to the U.N. organization, the groups wrote that “the report contains so many factual inaccuracies and misleading claims that its conclusion must be withdrawn.” The report, which was released in early 2016, concludes these biofuels are a “commercial reality” and a good investment for developing nations.

But as today’s letter pointed out, the UNCTAD report includes many serious errors, including a list of “second-generation” biofuel plants that is actually composed of facilities that have never produced such fuels, have yet to operate successfully, or have stopped operations. One company touted by the report has declared bankruptcy.

“We are deeply concerned that developing countries’ governments could be misled by UNCTAD’s flawed report that claims that second-generation biofuels are commercially viable when current evidence shows that they clearly are not,” said Almuth Ernsting, co-director of the United Kingdom-based organization Biofuelwatch. “In the worst case, under-resourced countries could end up wasting scarce public funding on technologies which have no track record of working.”

“The U.N.’s error-filled biofuels report threatens our climate by pushing a dirty, unproven technology that could undermine truly promising clean-energy sources,” said Kevin Bundy, a Center senior attorney. “We expect better from the United Nations. The report must be withdrawn.”

The groups' letter highlights the report’s factual inaccuracies. The report claims, for example, that over 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol were produced in the United States in 2014. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, however, just over 2 million gallons were produced.

The report also lists 10 “second-generation” biofuel production plants with "the highest capacity.” Of those 10, however, seven never produced any second-generation fuels; one began production but then shut down three months prior to publication of the report; one continues to be plagued by problems and has yet to operate successfully; and the last never operated successfully and appears to have been shut down.

The report also highlights the GreenSky London project announced by British Airways in 2010, which aimed to refine municipal solid waste into aviation fuel using Solena’s technology. Solena filed for bankruptcy in the Maryland Bankruptcy Court in October 2015. Following Solena’s bankruptcy petition, British Airways officially abandoned the GreenSky London project.

Independent research conducted by Biofuelwatch also found at least five commercial-scale ”second-generation” biofuel refineries in the United States which have failed to produce fuels due largely due to problems with the technologies involved.

The organizations signing the letter include Biofuelwatch, Center for Biological Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity, ETC Group, Friends of the Earth U.S., the Global Justice Ecology Project, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

Documents and additional resources:

The groups’ open letter is available at:

The UNCTAD Report “Second Generation Biofuel Markets: State of Play, Trade and Developing Country Perspectives” can be viewed at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on total US cellulosic ethanol production (totaling 2.18 milion gallons in 2014) can be viewed at:

Further background and independent research from Biofuelwatch can be found in the article “Biofuel or Biofraud? The Vast Taxpayer Cost of Failed Cellulosic and Algal Biofuels,” Almuth Ernsting, Independent Science News, March 2016,

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back