18 Juni 2014

Ireland imports 84% of its biofuel, a far cry from self-sufficiency

To meet binding EU transport targets, Ireland imported 126 million litres of biofuel in 2013 – some 84% of the total 150m litres used here last year

That’s according to An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland, which is drawing attention to the failure of EU biofuels policy to meet one of its key aims, namely, to boost self-sufficiency in terms of transport fuels.

An Taisce says that reasonable progress has been made in Ireland to recover used cooking oil from restaurants and take-aways, with the total volume standing at 9.5m litres in 2013. However, compared to the amount recovered domestically, Ireland is importing three times more used cooking oil from Spain, and one-and-a-half times more used cooking oil from the UK, and overall, imports of used cooking oil (UCO) outweigh domestically recovered UCO by 7 times.

Taking the sector as a whole, around half of all the biofuel used in Ireland is derived from used cooking oil (49%), one quarter comes from corn (24%), while tallow from meat rendering plants makes up one in every eight litres (12.5%). The other feedstocks that go to make biofuel used in Ireland are wheat (7.6%), sugar beet (4.3%), sugar cane (3%), and palm oil mill effluent (0.9), and rape seed (0.3%).

The analysis by An Taisce comes as EU energy Ministers are tomorrow (13 June) expected to approve a limit on the amount of land-based biofuels that can be counted towards the requirement that renewables make up 10% of transport fuel by 2020. The new limit, set at 7%, aims to stem competition from biofuel for land, with EU policy responsible for a significant part of the global tension between fuel and food.

At issue also is “Indirect Land Use Change” (or ILUC), whereby food production in lower-income countries is pushed into more marginal land as international companies buy up premium land for fuel crops to supply mainly EU and US markets.

Research is also showing that biofuels do not reduce emissions as much as originally thought, and some do not reduce it at all.

An Taisce points out that EU policy is not sustainable. In the European Union as a whole, the percentage of imports is similar to Ireland (approaching 85%). If current policy is pursued, it will take 70 million hectares of land to supply the European Union’s biofuel demand, an area equivalent to the size of Sweden and Poland combined.

“In terms of reducing emissions most biofuels remain very much unproven”, according to James Nix, Policy Director at An Taisce, adding that “EU policy initiatives need to be directed much more towards energy savings than biofuel”.

Source: An Taisce, press release, 2014-06-12.

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