The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Europe Takes Another Step Toward Capping First-Generation Biofuels

In a hotly contested vote today, Europe’s Parliament voted to cap the amount of conventional or “first-generation” biofuels (those derived from food crops) that can be used in the EU’s transport sector.

In line with the Union’s climate targets, European member states will need to source 10 percent of their transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020. No more than 6 percent of that amount will be sourced from conventional biofuels if the cap bill is passed into law following the next legislative step, which would normally be a negotiation between the parliamentary rapporteur and the Council of Europe.

However, some MEPs have asked for a second reading of the bill. According to activist group Birdlife Europe, this means that “the ball is kicked into the long grass” and a resolution on the issue is unlikely before Parliamentary elections in May 2014.

The cap appears to have been a compromise between two separate proposals to amend 2009’s biofuels law, put forward by different factions. The parliamentary environment committee voted in July to impose a 5.5 percent cap on conventional biofuels, while a proposal from the industry committee asked for 6.5 percent. A higher cap would give the industry time to become profitable enough to invest in “second-generation” synthetic biofuel technologies, the committee said. The industry committee also asked that indirect land use change factors not be measured as part of the EU fuel quality directive.  

Indirect land use change (ILUC) refers to the unintended consequences incurred when land is changed from producing food crops to producing energy crops, such as additional carbon emissions and reduced food security. The environment committee had proposed that only biofuels with low ILUC factors should qualify to meet member states’ renewable fuel targets.

The method of calculating ILUC in order to include it in carbon accounting has been one of the most passionately argued aspects of the debate, with scientists from around the world weighing in on its validity. Many argue that the current ILUC calculation method is simply too unreliable to be used in making binding legislation.

Today’s vote affirmed that ILUC factors will be included in calculations toward the fuel quality directive, but not immediately: ILUC will be measured beginning in 2020. The vote in favour was a close 352 to 343.

Both industry representatives and anti-biofuel activist groups have expressed dismay at the vote. Raffaelo Garofalo, secretary general of the European Biodiesel Board, described the vote as an “unacceptable compromise” and a “really bad step” by the Parliament.

“The Parliament, by this vote, seems to think member states in Europe will come down from where they are in terms of biofuels and go back to lower than 6 percent, so it’s like a new target has been established,” he said. There have previously been no restrictions on how member states can fulfil the 10 percent target.  

“In Sweden, the Czech Republic, and even Germany and France they are already above 6 percent [in the use of conventional biofuels],” Garofalo said. “There are jobs, employment, an industrial economy. In 2009 Parliament said go to 10 percent; now they say dismantle it based on uncertain figures.”

Connie Hedegaard, the climate action commissioner, says the vote will not affect the EU’s renewable fuel targets. “These targets are there. We’re not changing them,” she said. “However, it’s also clear that we must take care that we get it right. To achieve these targets and do it wrongly – what have we gained then?”

Activist groups have also spoken against today's result. Trees Robijns, EU agriculture and bioenergy policy offer at Birdlife Europe, called the vote a “muddled compromise”.

“The Parliament did not take a clear stand on whether using land to feed cars rather than sustaining people and biodiversity is a major mistake. Today’s vote keeps the Parliament on the fence whether the EU should continue or end subsidising deforestation, hunger and land conflicts,” he said. Birdlife Europe was one of three groups behind the Stop Bad Biofuels Campaign, which was established in order to influence the vote.

And representatives of ActionAid, the food security activist group that has agitated for removing biofuel subsidies, called the vote “a great disappointment.” Nuria Molina, ActionAid’s director of policy and campaigns, said, “MEPs from across Europe turned their backs on the world’s poor, as well as their own constituents by voting for a reform of biofuels legislation that will continue to encourage food being used for fuel. A 6 percent cap on biofuels … would allow enough food to be burnt in Europe’s cars to feed more than 200 million people every year.”

“However,” she continued, “some progress was made as at least MEPs voted to acknowledge the role that biofuels have in causing hunger and contributing to climate change.”

UK trade body the Renewable Energy Association (REA) said the vote "will prolong biofuels policy instability” and “sends out mixed signals.” REA head of renewable transport Clare Wenner said, “Future investments are likely to remain on hold following today’s voting in Strasbourg, which introduces a whole new level of procedural complexity into the ILUC policy situation. The 6 percent overall cap is too tight and the REA continues to oppose the introduction of ILUC factors until there is convincing scientific evidence that biofuels should be singled out in this way.”  

Lead image: Plenary room of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

US Capitol

Republicans and Democrats Back Bill to Level the Playing Field for Renewable Energy

Vince Font, Contributing Editor U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Jerry Moran are leading a bipartisan effort to reintroduce tax code legislation aimed at leveling the playing field for renewable energy investment. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act w...

US Department of Energy To Fund Bioenergy Technologies Incubators

Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest

In Washington, the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said that it intends to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement entitled “Bioenergy Technologies Incubator 2" (BETO).

Pope Francis

The Common Goals of the Pope and Clean Energy

Paul Stinson, EDF Pope Francis turned a keen eye toward the environment and the problem of climate change with his encyclical,“Laudato Si” (“Praised Be”). As a clean energy advocate, I’m heartened that Pope Francis recognizes the need t...
money pile

Deeper Capital Markets for Renewable Energy

Tomas Gardfors and Ann Vesely, Norton Rose Fulbright Following the global financial crisis, a more diversified funding market is developing in Europe. Institutional investors are helping to fill the funding gap left by the contraction in bank lending in the wake of the crisis...
Tildy Bayar is a journalist focusing on the energy sector. She is a former Associate Editor on RenewableEnergyWorld.com and Renewable Energy World magazine.

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

SAP for Utilities

The SAP for Utilities conference is the most comprehensive SAP for Utili...

Applying Renewable Energy - Online Training

RENAC Online offers a selection of courses on a wide variety of renewabl...

Mastering RETScreen® 4 for Clean Energy Project Analysis

Hands-on modeling class using RETScreen 4. Michael Ross designed this co...

COMPANY BLOGS

Substrate Feeder for Biogas Facilities

RUD manufactures complete, ready-to-use conveyor systems for transportin...

US Energy Grid Review Finds Needed Upgrades Would Allow More Solar,...

Yesterday (April 21) the U.S. Department of Energy released the first Qu...

Clean Energy Patents Rise in 2014, Solar Tops others, Toyota and GM...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies in 2014 were again at an all ...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS