Thursday, July 11, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Article about today's EU Parliament Committee biofuels vote

[Note to avoid any confusion: This article relates to a vote by the EU Parliament's Environment Committee today - not to any legally binding decision. The full European Parliament will be voting on those proposals in September - Almuth] 

Breaking: MEPs approve proposals to reduce biofuels emissions

Influential Environment Committee backs cap on crop-based fuels and moves to include indirect emissions in EU directives

By Will Nichols

11 Jul 2013

EU parliamentarians have approved proposals to limit the contribution of conventional biofuels toward its green transport targets, in a move producers labelled "complex and ineffective".

MEPs in the influential Environment Committee (ENVI) voted 43-21 – with one abstention – to set a cap for fuels made from food crops at 5.5 per cent and include emissions arising from indirect land use change (ILUC) factors such as clearing of forests, wetlands or grasslands in the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive when calculating official emissions impacts.

The commission had already proposed a five per cent cap, roughly equating to current levels, but the EU Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) said last month this should be raised to 6.5 per cent and recommended ILUC factors not be included until the methodology for measuring indirect emissions is more reliable.

The cap is designed to accelerate the development of so-called second-generation biofuels, which derive from materials such as waste, agricultural residues or algae, which in theory do not compete with food production but have yet to reach industrial levels of production.

Green groups have blamed biofuel production for rising food prices and point to a number of research papers that suggest ILUC emissions mean that some forms of biofuel, particular biodiesel made from palm or soybean oil, are worse for the environment than the petrol and diesel fuels they are designed to replace.

However, producers argue the science around ILUC calculations is still in its infancy and that the EU should not undermine a £14bn industry on such a premise. Moreover, they argue there is a real threat the EU will not be able to meet its goal of using 10 per cent green energy in transport by 2020 by effectively ruling out 80 per cent of EU biofuels, and warn that by changing the goal posts the move could deter investors in next-generation fuels.

Kåre Riis Nielsen, director of European affairs at Danish company Novozymes, which manufacturers enzymes for both first- and second-generation producers, branded the proposals "a complex and ineffective package". He said the proposals in the ITRE report would be a better way of promoting the best performing biofuels while addressing ILUC issues in a "practical manner".

"Limiting the share of conventional biofuels to 5.5 per cent prevents further growth of the industry and ignores the strong contribution conventional ethanol makes to decarbonise the transport sector even when ILUC is accounted for," Nielsen said in a statement. "The ENVI Committee has ignored the opinions provided by other Parliamentary Committees... that recommended a more balanced approach allowing conventional biofuels to develop sustainably while incentivising further innovative advanced biofuels.

"Today's vote fails to provide the needed long-term and stable policy framework for industry and investors and would jeopardise the future of best performing biofuels including advanced biofuels industry."

Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, gave the measures a cautious welcome, but argued that they represented a "timid step" when bolder action was required.

"The introduction of ILUC factors is an important decision to ensure that only biofuels that benefit the climate are being supported," he said. "But it's disappointing that the committee has not set a trajectory for phasing out the use of food for fuel, but instead chose to cap it at a level that is even higher than current use.

"It's crucial that when the parliament's plenary votes in September, it must not further water down the current proposal."


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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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