EU biofuels policy winner is petroleum

The European Parliament's Environment Committee passed a draft law Feb. 24 capping first-generation biofuels at 6 percent of transportation energy consumption by 2020
By Ron Kotrba | February 25, 2015

A contentious draft law to cap the consumption of traditional biofuels such as biodiesel from rapeseed and ethanol from grain was approved Feb. 24 by the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee. Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10 percent of energy consumption in transportation by 2020, but the newly approved draft law by lead member of the EU Parliament Nils Torvalds caps first-generation biofuels at 6 percent. The draft law also dictates that advanced biofuels, sourced from “seaweed or certain types of waste,” should account for at least 1.25 percent of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

“This has been an enormously challenging file,” said Torvalds, “and at the same time a very interesting one. And it’s complicated technically and technologically. I love this kind of political challenge and hope we will take it to a good result in the trilogues,” he said after the committee’s amendments to the draft law were approved by a vote of 39 to 26, with four abstentions.

“The result of this vote shows that the European Parliament is backing an extremely negative position on biofuels, making fossil diesel and gasoline the real winner,” the European Biodiesel Board said in an emotionally charged statement.

EBB Secretary General Raffaello Garofalo said, “Today’s approval of radical Torvalds’ position against any biofuels compromise is a bad news for Europe. It brings the unreasonable [indirect land use change (ILUC)] fight one step forward in an escalation where the losers are European citizens and the winner is fossil petrol.”

In its response to the vote, the EBB also stated that “all the direct advantages linked to European-made biofuels risk to be lost and a whole EU economic sector risks to disappear if antibiofuel radical crusaders will force their extreme arguments amid a more and more confused fight.”

“In its symbolic fight, the parliament voluntarily ignored recent international ISO evidence that ILUC figures are completely unreliable,” Garofalo said. “We trust member states to reestablish as a priority the interest of EU citizens to benefit of all the advantages coming from EU-made biodiesel.”

The board noted that a future with ILUC factors and without biodiesel will drive to huge losses in terms of EU jobs and economic activity, GHG emission abatement, security of energy supply and reduced vegetable proteins deficit.

“Since today’s radical vote made any compromise less and less reachable, it is probably time to decide what will be more beneficial for EU citizens: a confused and disruptive ILUC legislation, or long-term, positive support to sustainable EU biodiesel as an alternative to fossil fuels GHGs and massive diesel imports from Russia.”

Torvalds received a mandate to start negotiations for a second reading agreement, which may take place this spring.