Saturday

21st Jan 2017

EU tries to reduce share of 'food-wasting' biofuels

The European Commission is proposing to further cut the share of traditional types of biofuels, discredited due to harmful effects on food prices, the environment and climate change.

“We should gradually phase out first-generation of food-wasting biofuels,” energy commissioner Maros Sefcovic told journalists on Tuesday (29 November), a day ahead of presenting a “mega-package” of energy-related measures.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The European Union embraced biofuels, as an alternative to petrol and diesel, in 2003.

However, in recent years biofuels made from food crops have been linked to food price rises and in some cases to greater global warming contributions than fossil fuels they replaced.

Last year, European legislators adopted legislation aimed at steering investors towards biofuels whose production did not compete with food production, by setting a new, more refined, target.

Biofuels in Europe come in two categories: traditional or first-generation, and advanced or second-generation.

In 2003, member states agreed that by 2020, 10 percent of all of the transport fuel used in the EU, should be biofuels.

According to 2014 figures from Eurostat, on average only 5.9 percent of transport fuel was from a renewable energy source – which includes not only biofuels, but also hydrogen and 'green' electricity.

In the United States, that figure was already 7.1 percent in 2012.

The original 2020 target still stands, but only 7 percent of all transport fuels may be first-generation biofuels.

The commission now wants to further promote second-generation biofuels with a new 2030 target.

“We are proposing that the food-based biofuels should be gradually phased out in a way that by 2030 they should not represent more than 3.8 percent,” said Sefcovic.

Advanced biofuels should represent 6.8 percent by 2030.

Sefcovic said: “we did a very thorough impact assessment and we tested different scenarios. This was the result which was the most optimal, based on the current situation, and expectation of technological developments.”

But the target must gain support from the European Parliament and member states.

National governments particularly may be reluctant to adopt another target so soon after the previous one, given their sensitivity to pleas from Europe's relatively young biofuels industry, which made considerable investments in first-generation biofuels.

Industry feels 'betrayed'

A Brussels-based biofuels lobby group has responded with outrage to the commission's proposal.

"The biofuel sector feel betrayed by the commission because of its complete disregard for the investments made in good faith on the basis of EU policy," said the European renewable ethanol association in an e-mailed statement.

The Transport & Environment lobby group meanwhile said the phase-out of food-based biofuels was not going fast enough.

The environmentalist group blamed the commission for "backtracking on its commitment to promote the electrification of transport".

EU to tackle 'energy poverty'

The Commission wants to focus on "vulnerable consumers" but concedes that there will be differences in needs across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey