EU states fail to find enthusiasm for biofuels

EU governments are largely failing to comply with requirements under a 2003 directive on increasing use of biofuels in transport, the European Commission revealed on Wednesday. A senior oil industry official claimed the situation showed the rules should be rethought.

According to the Commission, fully 19 out of 25 member states failed to transpose the directive by the deadline of 31 December last year and have already been sent first legal warnings. Nine have been sent further legal warnings either for failing to send a first implementation report – due by last July – or for not setting a target for increasing the share of biofuels.

The directive sets indicative targets of a 2% biofuels share in each member state by 2005, rising to 5.75% in 2010. Its official rationale is that boosting biofuel use can help avoid greenhouse gas emissions, reduce European dependence on oil imports and offer new markets for farm produce.

Altogether, only three countries – Germany, Lithuania and Estonia – have fully complied with both the letter and spirit of the directive. Half of the 18 countries with 2005 targets have set them below the 2% benchmark. Most extreme is Denmark, whose target is 0%. But Ireland comes close behind with a target of 0.06%, followed by Finland at 0.1% and the UK at 0.3%.

European oil industry officials were unsurprised by the extent to which member states appear to be ignoring the directive. Governments never embraced it in the first place, Peter Tjan of sector association Europia told Environment Daily. Their current performance reflects this.

Countries like Denmark, for instance, have decided to promote other forms of renewable energy rather than transport biofuels, Mr Tjan said. Others don’t have the agricultural land to make the targets at all achievable. Producing biofuels risks locking in a large and permanent need for subsidies, he added, and are a very expensive way of cutting fossil carbon emissions.

In addition, practical problems are beginning to emerge as biofuel production rises, such as divergent taxation systems, and the unintended consequence of rising Brazilian bioethanol imports subsidised by European taxpayers.

Raffaello Garofalo of the European biodiesel board provided an alternative view, describing the Commission’s announcement as “good news for the biofuels industry”. Countries agreed the rules “and they are going for it,” he told Environment Daily.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily

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