Monday

18th Dec 2017

Interview

New documentary shows how biofuels lobby played parliament

  • Sergio Ghizzardi, director of the film Green Gold (Photo: Peter Teffer)

Five Germans ruined it all for former French MEP Corrine Lepage.

Lepage, a member of the liberal Alde group, spearheaded the reform of the EU's biofuels policy. In 2013, she asked the European Parliament's plenary for a mandate to negotiate on the file with the EU Council, but was defeated by one vote, thanks to a handful of German liberal MEPs who voted against.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 'I could have written a book,' said Ghizzardi of his experience documenting the biofuels saga (Photo: Sergio Ghizzardi)

The scene is a key moment in filmmaker Sergio Ghizzardi's new documentary, 'Green Gold', out this week.

"Five guys from her own party voted against because they have been lobbied by the German lobby," Ghizzardi said in an interview.

The Belgian documentary-maker spoke to EUobserver in a cafe in Brussels, ahead of the preview screening of his film in the city's centre for fine arts Bozar, on Monday (20 November).

It may be one of the key takeaways from Ghizzardi's film: the strength of the biofuels lobby. Remarkably, it is a lobby that has grown in response to EU policy.

The documentary tells the story of how the EU decided to embrace the use of biofuels, only to find out that it had not properly considered all the negative consequences.

Biofuels come in several types and forms, roughly divided between the labels 'first generation/conventional', and 'second generation/advanced'.

In particular the biofuels from the first generation have come under fire because of their unintended consequences on the environment, climate, and sometimes even food prices.

The film, seven years in the making, shows the effects of the EU's biofuels policy across the world, including deforestation in Argentina and Indonesia.

In the 2000s, the EU decided to promote biofuels as an alternative to fossil-based fuels petrol and diesel.

By 2010, 5.75 percent of all transport fuel was supposed to be biofuels. For 2020, the target is 10 percent.

But for years the targets did not specify if and when food crops may be used as biofuels, and how to prevent forests – which can suck up greenhouse gases – from being cut to make way for biofuel crops.

"We see that palm oil is emitting three times more CO2 emissions than petrol," said Ghizzardi.

But thanks in part to the EU targets, a powerful lobby has emerged to defend the first generation biofuels, including against the promotion of second generation biofuels.

"The ones who have got the power, they don't let you get in their market without fighting," he said.

The legislation later was adopted in 2015, and included sub-targets for second generation biofuels for 2020.

Then in November 2016, the European Commission proposed to reduce the share of first generation biofuels even further.

But Ghizzardi decided against putting these developments in the film.

"Seeing the face of Mrs Lepage losing the vote afterwards, it explained much more, more than any complex words or whatever," he said.

"I could have written a book. But in documentary you have got only 90 minutes, and that's already long."

The film also leaves out much of the role of the Council of the EU, where national governments meet.

Member states' national governments are "more powerful" than the European Parliament, said Ghizzardi, yet his film is much more focused on the role of the Parliament.

The reason? "That's always a question of access," said Ghizzardi.

"In the member states the lobby is even stronger," said Ghizzardi, noting that more often economic interests were at play rather than environmental ones.

"Everybody was defending his own champion, and his own interests," he added.

But it was difficult to put that in a documentary, he said, because national governments "don't really want to speak about that".

The experience has not made Ghizzardi a eurosceptic. "No, not at all."

"European institutions are really at the core of the political system in Europe," he said.

Instead, one should be sceptical of "the game of the member states", he said, more than the EU institutions themselves.

His next project is about how democracy could be reformed.

Green Gold will be shown in a preview in Bozar, Brussels, on 20 November, and will premiere in Belgium on 22 November

MEPs approve plan to put cap on older biofuels

The European Parliament's environment committee Tuesday approved a plan to try and steer investors away from traditional types of biofuels that have had negative side-effects on food prices, environment and climate change.

Focus

MEPs agree cap on crop-based biofuels

The EU parliament has capped the amount of crop-based biofuels that can be used to reach EU energy targets amid environmental fears.

EU to cap biofuel target to protect food

The EU intends to cap the contribution made by crop-based biofuels to its renewable energy target under draft legislation tabled on Wednesday.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives