Food Price Fears Push EU Lawmakers to Put a Lid on Biofuels Growth
(EurActiv) The European Parliament has voted to limit the use of fuels made from food crops because of fears that biofuels can push up grain prices or damage the climate, further undermining the once booming industry.
Lawmakers voting in Strasbourg on Wednesday (11 September) set a ceiling on the use of such fuels at 6% of overall transport fuel demand in the European Union in 2020.
Although slightly higher than the 5% cap proposed by the European Commission in October, it deals a blow to EU biofuel producers by effectively preventing them from increasing current output.
With first generation biofuel consumption already at around 5% of total EU transport demand, and with almost enough installed production capacity meet the 10% target, a limit of 5 or 6% would call time on the once booming industry and force some existing plants to close.
That would effectively ban the use of biodiesel from oil crops such as rapeseed, palm and soy, which according to the EU’s scientific models are more damaging than conventional diesel when their overall impact on the environment is taken into account.
The biodiesel industry says the scientific models used in the studies are highly uncertain and based on flawed assumptions.
In order to try to make up the shortfall created by the cap on first-generation fuels, the parliament said the EU should set a new 2.5% sub-target for the use of advanced, non-crop fuels made from algae or agricultural waste in 2020.
A coalition of industry and environmental groups – including the European Climate Foundation and Danish advanced biofuel producer Dong Energy – have said that full sustainable use of agricultural and forestry waste could supply 13% of EU road transport fuel by 2020.
“This potential will only be realised if EU biofuel and related industries are given investment certainty and a stable policy framework by the European Parliament and Council,” the group said in a statement.
One aspect of the vote that offered a glimmer of hope to the biofuel industry was that lawmakers demanded further talks about the rules before opening negotiations with EU countries to finalise them. READ MORE and MORE (UNICA/PR NewsWire) and MORE (Bloomberg) and MORE (Renewable Energy World) and MORE (The Ecologist) and MORE (The Guardian) and MORE (Agri.EU) and MORE (The Energy Collective VIDEO of Corinne Lepage, Rapporteur on the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) proposal in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, to discuss the European Parliament vote on ILUC/biofuels in plenary session on Wednesday 11 September 2013. She laments the fact that MEPs rejected her request for a mandate to negotiate a first-reading deal with the Council of Ministers.) and MORE (Renewable Energy World includes VIDEO)
Excerpt from UNICA’s statement: …”However, it is unfortunate that the Parliament gave into biofuel critics’ pleas to put an arbitrary, 6% cap on the use of all food-based biofuels,” said Geraldine Kutas, Head of International Affairs at UNICA.
“A cap ignores important differences between conventional biofuels’ environmental performance. It is also vulnerable to being de facto discriminatory and breaching World Trade Organization rules,” she said. UNICA is hopeful that EU Member States, who will now formally begin to craft their own position on the biofuel dossier, will reject this arbitrary cap, said Ms. Kutas.
Although it comprises less than 1% of all ethanol used in Europe today, Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol’s positive environmental and social characteristics are helping the EU meet its important 2020 greenhouse emissions reduction and energy supply security goals.
Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is classified as an advanced biofuel by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and by California Air Resources Board, even when potential indirect, or ILUC, effects are taken into account.
That classification is a result of the recognition that BSCE does not contribute to deforestation, as it is grown mostly on degraded pasture land and grown almost entirely in the south-central part of Brazil, far away from the Amazon rainforest.
Moreover, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol achieves among the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emission savings (over 70% relative to fossil fuel alternatives, according to the default values in the EU Renewable Energy Directive, and more than 55% when estimated ILUC emissions are accounted for) of all biofuels produced at scale in the world because of its very moderate indirect impacts and the resource efficiency of its production. READ MORE