European Commission’s proposals spark fire in biofuel industry

Europe's biofuel industry has threatened to sue the European Commission if it goes ahead with its proposal, announced today, to limit global land conversion for biofuel production due to their indirect effect on CO2 emissions.

The commission announced that using food-based biofuels to meet the 10% renewable energy target of the Renewable Energy Directive will fall to 5%.

According to the commission, the cut will stimulate the development of alternative, so-called second generation biofuels from non-food feedstock, like waste or straw, which emit substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and do not directly interfere with global food production.

“For the first time, the estimated global land conversion impacts – Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) – will be considered when assessing the greenhouse gas performance of biofuels”, said the commission.

Energy commissioner Günther Oettinger said: “This proposal will give new incentives for best-performing biofuels. In the future, biofuels will be saving more substantial greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our fuel import bill.”

Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard added: “For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels. We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food. We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable”.

Earlier in the day, news and policy website, EurActiv, reported Rob Vierhout, secretary-general of renewable ethanol industry representative, ePure,  as saying “If no-one is going to invest in us anymore I think we should sue the European Commission for killing an industry”.

Following Vierhouts comment, the European biofuel industry released a joint statement backing his concerns over the proposals.

The statement said: “A proposal based on unfounded and immature ILUC science and a 5% cap in 2020 would destroy the biofuels industries and related sectors such as crushing and sugar facilities. It would also cut off European farmers from a key market, reducing the crops diversification.

“Any change in policy must safeguard the investments made and ongoing toward fulfilling the Commission’s initial objectives of 10% renewable energy for transport production in the EU. Fundamental problems remain in the EC proposal which will have a devastating impact on the biofuels industries and diversification of farmers’ revenues”.

Backing the industry, the Renewable Energy Association’s head of renewable transport, Clare Wenner, said: “These proposals constitute a wholesale withdrawal of political support from the Commission, and will deter the very investors that the Commission wants to invest in innovations for non-food advanced biofuels.”

Industry concerns surfaced yesterday after a European Commission draft was leaked, which proposed accounting for indirect land-use change (ILUC) emissions in the fuel quality directive.

Adding to the biofuels woes yesterday, Friends of the Earth Europe released a report slamming biofuels and called on governments to scrap biofuel targets , which it claims exacerbates food price rises by diverting food to fuel.

Friends of the Earth International’s Food Sovereignty programme coordinator, Martin Drago, said: “We need urgent action from governments to fund ecological farming and an immediate halt to using food crops to fuel cars.”

Leigh Stringer

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