As part of the revision of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, the European Commission proposed a gradual phase-out of food-based biofuels, which should be replaced by “more advanced biofuels” that do not compete with food crops.
For 2030, the EU executive proposed reducing the contribution of conventional biofuels in transport from a maximum of 7% in 2021 to 3.8% in 2030. It also set an obligation to raise the share of other “low emissions fuels” such as renewable electricity and advanced biofuels in transport to 6.8%.
On 17 January, the European Parliament voted on the Commission’s proposed text. They decided to cap crop-based biofuels at 2017 consumption levels, saying they should represent no more than 7% of all transport fuels until 2030.
EU lawmakers also set a 12% target for renewables in transport, 10% of which should be reserved for so-called second-generation or advanced biofuels, such as waste-based biofuels and recycled carbon fuels.
But are all listed advanced biofuels sustainable? How did the Commission measure the greenhouse savings of the second generation biofuels? What will be the cost of the transition from conventional to advanced biofuels?
The EU farmers’ association claims that straw is an agricultural co-product and not a waste, whereas the European Commission has listed it as waste to produce “advanced biofuel” to decarbonise the transport sector.
The EU Council's proposal for double or even multiple counting of advanced biofuels and green electricity consumption will increase Europe's dependency on fossil fuels to cover "real" energy needs, something which conflicts with the principal objective of the RED II legislation.
The debate on the technologies available to produce second-generation biofuels, and their related costs, is heating up in Brussels amid disagreement over the European Commission’s estimates.
Not all second-generation biofuels listed by the European Commission are sustainable, critics warn, urging policymakers to use the indirect land use change (ILUC) factor to “clean up” the list.
The EU needs a more realistic target for advanced biofuels in transport, green campaigners have warned, saying proper sustainability criteria should be introduced to avoid the “mistakes of the past” when biofuels attracted criticism for causing deforestation and environmental degradation in the developing world.