Should we use traditional biofuels, or in other words, biofuels from crops such as corn, wheat, sugar beet and rapeseed or latest generation biofuels? The debate is now open in the absence of consensus among the European Union member countries in deciding where the limit is to the use of food as a source of renewable energy.
Last November, the EU countries tried to bring together positions for a consensus on the use of biofuels produced from crops. Brussels and the Lithuanian presidency propose to bring the limit from 5% to 7% and encourage biofuels from other sources such as straw or waste, known as latest generation biofuels.
The Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper), which includes the Member States’ ambassadors, had to revise the Fuel Quality Directive and conclude a political agreement on this issue during the EU Council of Energy Ministers this coming December 12.
However, for the moment, most countries are reluctant to accept the European Commission’s original proposal, which in October 2012 claimed that biofuels from crops such as corn, wheat , sugar beet or rapeseed-which may interfere with the production of food – should constitute a maximum of 5 % of the renewable energy used in transportation in the frame of the Plan 2020. According to said proposal, the remaining 5 % should be covered with latest generation biofuels, produced from waste and other alternative sources such as straw, which emit less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, or other clean sources like hydrogen or electricity.
Raising the share of biofuels
The compromise text by the Lithuanian presidency proposed to raise to 7% the quota for traditional biofuels, while it did not establish a mandatory minimum for latest generation biofuels, but instead a voluntary one.
Environmental organizations voiced their opposition to Lithuanian presidency’s proposal, and have reported pressure from lobbyists in favor of traditional biofuels. “A limit of 7% means a 50% increase of unsustainable biofuels,” said Marc Oliver Herman from Oxfam.
“These bad biofuels represent an increase of deforestation, more CO2 emissions and increased pressure on food prices at the expense of taxpayers,” said Nusa Urbancic from NGO Transport & Environment .
Differences of opinion between countries
France, Germany, UK and Spain would support this change in percentages, but Poland, Hungary, Romania and Luxembourg have not expressed their opinion, the first three because they seek to further raise the share of traditional biofuels.
At the opposite end, countries like Sweden and Finland, request a higher limit, while others like Italy advocate for maintaining a minimum percentage reserved for latest generation biofuels.
In any case, no agreement is expected to be reached in time for its adoption by the Parliament before its dissolution for the coming European elections in May. Thus entry into force of the reform shall still be delayed several months.