Dropping biofuel mandate would be a toxic blow for the industry

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Indeed, scrapping these mandates would just play into the hands of the fossil fuel sector. The oil industry might be going through a difficult time, but which sector isn’t right now, writes Theodor Goumas. [Shutterstock/Praweena style]

Last week, a large group of EU-based biofuel producers and associations raised a red flag over reports that some member states are considering or are already dropping the mandates on renewable energy in transport in view of the COVID-19 crisis.

Indeed, scrapping these mandates would just play into the hands of the fossil fuel sector. The oil industry might be going through a difficult time, but so are all sectors right now, writes Theodor Goumas.

Theodor Goumas is a project manager of the ART Fuels Forum, which was established under the project: “Support for alternative and renewable liquid and gaseous fuels forum (policy and market issues)”.

It is financed by the European Commission and aims at bringing together selected representatives towards facilitating discussion and elaboration of common issues on policy and market penetration barriers for these fuels.

As people are driving less, demand for fuel has dropped dramatically. This, in parallel, results in less biofuel use; thus, several biofuel producers throughout Europe had to reduce substantially its production output.

Dropping the biofuel mandate would lead to a toxic blow for this industry. Moreover, if this sector due to such conditions is no longer viable, member states eventually will no longer be able to comply with the 2020 target set in the Renewable Energy Directive they have signed up to.

Helping an industry by scrapping the renewable energy mandates whereas we all agree that we should use less fossil oil for transport is therefore a cynical measure.

Use of biofuels results in greenhouse gas emissions avoided. The latest data from the UK shows that the average GHG saving through the use of biofuels is 78% and if accounted for ILUC still an impressive 72%.

Many crop-based biofuels, in particular ethanol, the data show, achieve savings that go well beyond the 50% threshold set in the Directive.

Data from Germany shows even far higher numbers where thanks to the emission reduction obligation on fuel producers, average savings are achieved in the order of 84%, so avoiding 9.5 million tons of CO2 in 2018. For cop-based bioethanol, the average saving was as high as 86.4% just below biomethane that reached savings of 90.23%.

The COVID-19 crisis also shows how agile and versatile the biofuel industry is. Already several million litres of ethanol-based disinfectant have been delivered to hospitals. So, besides producing biofuel, high protein animal feed, green CO2 the biofuel industry is now delivering a much-needed product to fight COVID-19, many litres are given away for free.

Paddling backwards now on the mandates for renewable energy in transport is therefore not a proper strategy.

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