The European Commission’s proposal to gradually phase-out first generation biofuels by 2030 will have a “major” negative impact on Hungary’s rural development, the ministry of agriculture told EURACTIV.com.
Budapest is also supportive of so-called advanced or second generation biofuels, made from wastes and residues, but this should not come at the expense of crop-based first generation biofuels.
In a written reply to EURACTIV, Hungary’s ministry of agriculture said that the country was one of the EU’s largest exporters of bioethanol and, therefore, the adoption of the first version of the draft directive would cause “major losses to Hungary’s agricultural economy”.
According to the ministry, farmers will be unable to sell the raw materials they produce, the majority of which are purchased by the biofuel processing industry, parallel to which export revenues would also be significantly reduced.
“Hungary produces excellent quality GMO-free protein feeds using the by-products of these raw materials, which are cultivated in large quantities, and this sector of agriculture would also suffer a disadvantage,” the ministry emphasised, adding that the impact on agricultural areas as a whole should be not neglected.
“The processing industry has a positive effect on rural development and in retaining the local, trained workforce, and accordingly it is in our interests to further increase this well-functioning and suitably-developed market rather than reduce it.”
The European Commission’s proposed Renewable Energy Directive II reduces the cap on the contribution of conventional biofuels to transport fuel from a maximum of 7% in 2021 to 3.8% in 2030. It also sets an obligation to raise the share of other “low emissions fuels” such as renewable electricity and advanced biofuels in transport to 6.8% [See background].
The Visegrád group (Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland) together with Romania and Bulgaria recently signed a joint declaration criticising the Commission’s proposal.
The six member states pointed out the importance of biofuel production to rural development and emphasised that the current level of renewable energy sources of agricultural origin “should be maintained or if possible increased after 2020”.
The biofuels industry has also reacted strongly, blaming the Commission for “unfounded science”, while several NGOs believe the EU executive is moving in the right direction and urge it to go further and impose a full ban.
Hungary’s ministry of agriculture pointed out that it was not against the development of second-generation or advanced biofuels and the gradual increase of their role.
“But it does not support the idea that this should be realised at the expense of traditional biofuels,” the ministry noted.
“Hungary is standing up for promoting the production of traditional biofuels and for regulations that set out the mandatory stipulation of their mixing ratios (at a higher level).”