19 Mai 2006

France: Villepin pins hopes on biofuels to face “oil crisis”

New measures aim at increasing the blending of biofuels in cars to 10% per volume by 2015, French PM Dominique de Villepin announced. The measure is part of a wide-ranging energy policy review. (Related: Biofuels for transport)

Background:

The European Union has set itself a target of increasing the use of biofuels in energy consumption to 5.75% by 2010.

In view of higher oil prices and the urgency of a new debate on security of energy supply, the Commission presented a Biomass Action Plan in December 2005 (EurActiv 9 Dec 2005). In February 2006, it followed up with a new Communication “An EU strategy for biofuels” preparing the ground for a review of the biofuels directive by the end of 2006, which might include mandatory targets instead of the indicative ones set in 2003.

Issues:

Dominique de Villepin on 15 May announced new measures to boost the use of biofuels in vehicles and reduce the country’s rising oil bill on its way to a “post-oil” era.

Villepin’s key measure is to increase the blending of biofuels with conventional oil to 10% per volume by 2015, an objective which is “twice as much as European objectives,” according to the French PM. Public procurements to build 16 new biomass-based factories were launched in 2005, representing a total investment of 2 billion euros, he announced.

Villepin’s objective is to ensure that, “by the end of the decade” every French citizen can buy a vehicle able to run on high biofuels blends. He said the vehicles would either be petrol cars which can run on “nearly pure” ethanol or diesel cars which can integrate “high blends” of biofuels.

In this context, Villepin said he wanted to see a genuine network of “green refuelling stations”, saying these are already a reality in Brazil and Sweden.

An action plan will be presented “by the summer” which will bring together car manufacturers, oil distributors, farmers and consumers, he announced.

Other measures include:

  • A commitment by oil producers to invest 4 billion euros in new refining capacity as well as research by the end of the decade
  • A big push for solar power with:
    • the state covering half the installation cost of a solar roofing
    • a commitment by EDF to buy solar electricity at double the current price
  • A commitment to double the price at which biogas is bought from farms and other waste storage facilities

Positions:

eBio, the European bioethanol fuel association, points to Sweden as a European champion in the use of biofuels.

“It is the only EU country that has achieved the 2005 target of 2% by bioethanol only and is now blending up to 5% ethanol in petrol,” says eBio President Ramón de Miguel. Moreover, he says Sweden “is the only EU country where we see a strong market developing for so-called flex fuel or E85-cars” that run on 85% ethanol and 15% petrol. According to Ramón de Miguel, 15% of new cars in Sweden are flex cars.

eBio says the EU should be more ambitious as most EU countries are currently off track from meeting the 2010 target of 5.75% use of biofuels. “At the one hand we see positive developments as regards biofuel output but on the other EU Member States are still far from achieving their targets,” said Ramón de Miguel.

ebio is pushing for the EU to increase the authorised blending of ethanol in petrol to 10%.

Latest & next steps:

  • By end 2006: review of EU biofuels directive
  • By end 2006: review of EU fuels quality directive to allow increased blending of biofuels with petrol and diesel

Links

EU official documents

Governments

EU Actors positions

Source: EurActiv.com May 19, 2006.

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