Baseload, Bioenergy

Update: Europe’s Biofuel Reform Stalled

A European Commission proposal to regulate the amount of land that can be used to grow biofuel crops has ground to a halt in Parliament.

In an update to our previous coverage of a bill that would cap the amount of conventional or “first-generation” biofuels — those made from crops that could be used for food — in Europe’s transport sector, the bill’s progress toward becoming law has now stalled.

At issue for member states is the continued viability of Europe’s biofuels industry, which grew quickly after a 10 percent-by-2020 target for the transport sector was set in 2009. A race to meet the target has resulted in significant investment in conventional biofuels, with companies now just beginning to put their R&D euros into developing second- and third-generation biofuels, which are not derived from food crops. In what some call a policy U-turn, the EU now wants to refocus its targets on next-generation biofuels in response to controversy over the environmental and social consequences of growing energy crops.

In a September vote, MEPs agreed to include calculations of so-called indirect land use change (ILUC) factors — penalties for indirect emissions — in the bill. ILUC refers to the unintended consequences incurred when land is changed from producing food crops to producing energy crops, such as additional carbon emissions or reduced food security.

After the vote an ILUC rapporteur, MEP Christine LePage, was appointed to take the process to the next level: opening negotiations on the bill with the Council of Europe, which represents the 28 member states. The bill will not become law until it is approved by the Council.

Now Parliament has refused to give LePage a mandate to open talks with the Council. See the story in this video from viEUws, the EU policy broadcaster: 

Read more bioenergy news here.

Lead image: Biofuel container via Shutterstock