Ethanol Industry Expert: Biofuels Tug-of-War Is an EU Invention
by Sarantis Michalopoulos (EurActiv) The conflict between second and first generation biofuels – depicted as good and bad for the environment – only exists in Brussels. In fact, it’s the brainchild of the European Commission, Eric Sievers told EURACTIV.com.
Eric Sievers is director of investments at Ethanol Europe.
He spoke to EURACTIV’s Sarantis Michalopoulos.
The first is that, over the past decade we’ve had the renewable energy directive (RED) and the fuel quality directive (FQD), which focuses on the greenhouse savings from specific fuel and rewards those which have the highest greenhouse gas savings. The new RED II for the next decades is a proposal to discontinue the FQD approach. It is prolonging the structure that has not worked and has ignored the fabulous successes of the FQD.
The other reason is that the RED II proposal is based on the ideology that there is something called food-based biofuels, which are bad for the environment, and something called advanced biofuels, which are good.
In reality, neither of these categories exists. There are conventional or first-generation biofuels which have 90% greenhouse gas savings, and no impact on food prices. And likewise, there are so-called advanced biofuels, which are worse than oil.
So, it’s a non-starter to pursue an ideology that science absolutely contradicts.
If you look at the Commission’s own impact assessment, you’ll see that it entirely ignores the jobs that are created and sustained from biofuels.
There is a provision at the very end, which is non-scientific (it’s laughable actually), which is not even from the Commission, it’s from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). It says that advanced biofuels facilities create lots of jobs but that it’s complicated to calculate how much. And so in order to estimate how many jobs they create, we are going to multiply them by two compared to job estimates for conventional biofuels.
This is fantastic because there is research on how much jobs are supported by conventional biofuels. And likewise, the assumption that jobs from advanced biofuels are more complicated to estimate is actually entirely wrong. It’s just the other way around.
Less than half of the jobs that we support are directly linked to the ethanol we produce. The majority is in fact linked to animal feed, pharmaceutical, and food. The Commission wants to pretend that feedstock goes into an ethanol plant, ethanol comes out and that’s it. Whereas half of what comes out by mass and most of what comes out in terms of high technology and innovation is in the animal feed and non-fuel side of the business.
In fact, we commissioned research late last year after the most senior Commission official on this file said there are no arguments against first generation biofuels except that the public does not want them. This research showed that, when confronted with the argument against first generation biofuels, 70% of the EU public still supports them.
But we continued and went to Macedonia and we created with Dupont what would have been the world’s largest advanced biofuel project. An incredibly ambitious project to turn abandoned land in Macedonia into a highly productive farmland to produce not only feedstock for advanced biofuels but also more food.
The Commission’s response to that project was to try to amend its ILUC directive proposal to prevent energy crops from being counted as advanced biofuels. This is where we realised there was no winning in this game.
We should not have a case where market share is given back to oil and that is exactly what the Commission’s proposal is doing. In 2008, they said that by 2020 10% of the oil market should be taken away. Now, it says that maybe 8% should be taken away.
The only real winner in this decade has been the oil sector. It got 2% more market share than it ever expected. And now looking forward to 2021 the Commission’s own proposal says that the oil sector might get back another 5% of the market. This is astonishing. This is the most oil-friendly proposal we could have ever imagined. READ MORE