Bioethanol or Biodiesel: Europe Hesitates over Indirect Impact of Green Fuel
by Jeremy Bowden (Renewable Energy World) For years Europe has encouraged motorists to use diesel over petrol in its efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Now, as the focus switches to introducing renewable fuels, it is proving far easier to produce clean bioethanol to replace petrol than clean biodiesel, leaving Europe’s renewable fuel targets looking vulnerable.
When all carbon emissions are taken into account, feedstocks for “renewable” liquid automobile fuels are far from equal. Palm oil and some other crops used in biodiesel are more carbon-intensive to produce and consume than oil, according to some researchers. Meanwhile, the corn or sugar normally used for petrol-substitute ethanol appears to offer genuine carbon savings.
For Europe, these are crucial calculations. Unlike the U.S., which also backs biofuels for energy security reasons, Europe’s rationale for encouraging biofuel use is purely environmental, said European Commission (EC) energy spokeswoman Marlene Holzner. There is “no consideration of energy self-sufficiency” in this policy, she said. So, by fully accounting for carbon emissions, Europe could end up undermining its current biofuels policy.
…Europe is now working to introduce new rules that fully quantify biofuel emissions, replacing estimates based solely on carbon emissions directly linked to the biofuel crop itself, such as fuel for harvesting and nitrogen-based fertiliser. To develop these regulations, the EC is attempting to quantify “indirect land use change” (ILUC) emissions, which take account of the carbon impact of crops displaced by the biofuel feedstock.
While ILUCs are proving to be a “very complicated” issue – with “no plan” and “no date” set for introducing rules – Holzner contradicts widespread reports of disagreement between the EU’s energy and climate departments over fundamental principles.
…Three alternative approaches are being considered, said Holzner. The first would exclude ILUCs but require all biofuels to achieve up to a 60 per cent emission saving on conventional fuels by 2016, which would probably allow Europe to continue producing rapeseed and other biofuels but could halt palm and soya imports.
…Meanwhile, in defense of what they see as their cleaner green fuels, European bioethanol producers have asked the EU to introduce ILUC targets so the market can distinguish between “good and bad biofuel pathways”. READ MORE