MEPs impose food-based biofuel limits

MEPs on the European Parliament’s Environment Committee have voted to limit at 6% the use of land-based biofuels that can count toward the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020.

MEPs also approved the accounting of emissions (ILUC) arising from the production of biofuels under the Fuel Quality Directive, with a review clause to put them in all pieces of legislation after 2020.

The vote will reduce the growth in consumption of so-called first generation biofuels and those which are made from food crops. In 2011, Next Green Car reported there was growing evidence that particular fuel crops are linked to rising food prices.

Parliament has widened the scope of the 6% cap to not only cover food-based biofuels but also energy crops, meaning inedible crops that still compete for land with food crops.

MEPs also agreed a new target for so called 'advanced biofuels' â€" which are sourced from seaweed or certain types of waste â€" which must now account for at least 1.25% of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

The decision has provoked a mixed response, with some biofuel industry leaders saying the cap will put jobs at risk. But environmental groups said that the limits do not go far enough.

Nusa Urbancic, of Brussels-based environment group T&E, said: "We welcome MEPs’ determination to limit the amount of bad biofuels the EU will blend in its petrol and diesel.

"Although in some respects weaker than the original proposal from the Commission, this vote send a clear signal that the European Parliament wants cleaner, alternative fuels that actually reduce emissions.”

T&E said this decision correctly identifies land use, not the type of crop, as the key environmental challenge of biofuels. The group added that it would mean that member states could not subsidise or mandate this type of biofuel after 2020.

The European renewable ethanol association (ePure) also welcomed the vote, which it says while “not perfect”, is an “important step forward in the process of reforming Europe’s biofuels policy.”

Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, CEO of NNFCC, a specialist Bioeconomy consultancy, said he “welcomed” any new legislation “that helps us better define good from bad biofuels."

However, he said that it was “difficult to understand why we need a cap for fuels that demonstrate sustainability; either we have ILUC factors and a GHG saving threshold or a cap on usage, having both makes no sense as we are by definition then limiting the best performing biofuels.”

The move comes less than two months after the UK Government announced a £25 million competition to build advanced biofuel plants. The fuel produced by the chosen technology must show a minimum of 60% greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared with fossil fuels.


Peter Thomas

Author:Peter Thomas
Date Updated:2nd Mar 2015

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