The European Parliament has voted to limit the use of biofuels made from food crops, in what is being seen as a compromise between the views of environmental groups and industry.
‘Bad biofuels’ capped
MEPs from the EU Environment Committee approved proposals to cap the contribution of biofuels derived from food crops, such as palm oil, soy and maize at 6% within the EU’s 10% renewable energy transport directive (RED) for 2020 – a tougher limit than the 7% backed by EU member states last year.
The decision has provoked a mixed response, with some biofuel industry leaders saying the cap will put jobs at risk. But environmental groups say that limits do not go far enough.
Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe called the EU’s bioefuels policy a “disaster” and said the vote “doesn’t go far enough to completely phase out the use of food in our cars.”
He added: “Nils Torvalds, the lead MEP in the process, must now bargain hard with EU governments to limit crop-based biofuels.”
However, Transport & Environment’s energy manager Nusa Urbancic said the group welcomed the “MEPs’ determination to limit the amount of bad biofuels the EU will blend in its petrol and diesel”. She added that the vote “sends a clear signal that the European Parliament wants cleaner alternative fuels that actually reduce emissions”, and called on Nils Torvalds, the Parliament’s rapporteur on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), to “stand his ground” when negotiating with EU governments to approve the cap.
The European renewable ethanol association (ePure) also welcomed the vote, which it says while “not perfect”, is an “important step forward in the process of reforming Europe’s biofuels policy.”
Robert Wright, ePure Secretary General, urged the Council “to remain firm on a minimum 7% cap for conventional biofuel while allowing the process to move forward.”
“The industry needs a policy outcome that will provide us with certainty and a longer-term perspective beyond 2020,” he said.
Advanced biofuels target
The Committee also want advanced biofuels, sourced from waste or algae (which do not compete with food production), to make up at least 1.25% of the RED by 2020. In addition, the Committee agreed to support plans to account for emissions resulting from ILUC into the biofuels legislation.
What happens next?
While many in industry will see the vote as a step in the right direction, Rapporteur Torvalds will now have to negotiate hard with the Latvian presidency to ensure the vote is approved by the EU Parliament’s plenary in April.
Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, NNFCC’s CEO, said he “welcomed” any new legislation “that helps us better define good from bad biofuels.” But he commented that it was “difficult to understand why we need a cap for fuels that demonstrate sustainability; either we have ILUC factors and a GHG saving threshold or a cap on usage, having both makes no sense as we are by definition then limiting the best performing biofuels.”