The biofuels industry urged member states yesterday (27 February) to review the European Commission’s proposal on post-2020 biofuel use in transport.
Ahead of a meeting of EU energy ministers yesterday, a group of seven industry associations representing Europe’s biofuels industry sent a letter urging them to review the executive’s proposal and set more ambitious goals for renewable energy use in transport.
At the very least, the associations called on EU ministers to ensure policy continuity by keeping the share of biofuels in European transport unchanged.
In November, the European Commission presented its draft proposal to review the Renewable Energy Directive for the post-2020 period as part of a Clean Energy Package.
The 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%.
The Commission’s change of heart on conventional or first generation biofuels has sparked heated discussions in Brussels.
Green pressure groups have highlighted the environmental damage of biofuels, in particular palm oil used in biodiesel, which according to some studies, can emit three times as much as fossil fuels.
Campaigners have pushed for accounting the effects of indirect land-use change (ILUC) from biofuels in EU legislation, saying demand for bioenergy in Europe was causing farmers in countries such as Indonesia to switch crops from food production to energy, causing deforestation and a rise in food prices.
The Commission admitted to this when it proposed a separate directive to reduce the indirect land use change of biofuels, which was adopted in 2015. The new law limits to 7% the use of biofuels that compete with crops grown on agricultural land.
But producers claimed that the executive’s latest proposal to limit biofuels even further was “biased” and not based on scientific evidence.
In their letter, the biofuels associations urged EU energy ministers not to lower the contribution of first generation biofuels to the share of renewables in EU transport. Not all biofuels have the same carbon footprint, they argue, with ethanol making a positive contribution to decarbonisation goals.
With its current proposal, the Commission is hindering decarbonisation in transport and does not help the EU meet its climate and energy goals, the associations claim.
“To meet the EU’s overall decarbonisation goal of 30% in non-ETS sectors including transport and reach at least 27% renewables use by 2030, the EU cannot roll back its 2020 ambitions,” the letter reads, adding that higher ambitions for renewables in transport should be set, with each member state increasing its share of renewables in transport to a minimum of 15% by 2030.
It also stressed that the whole EU biofuels chain would be highly affected, risking approximately 220,000 direct and indirect jobs.
euractiv.com recently asked the Commission whether it had conducted an employment impact study of the case.
Bernd Kuepker, policy officer with DG Energy, noted that the policy’s objective was not to create new jobs but that it would not decrease employment either.
“We looked at different factors and generally what has been considered is that the highest share of jobs is in the agricultural sector and we don’t expect it to stop,” he stated, adding that with the plans for advanced biofuels, job losses related to first generation biofuels will be compensated.
The industry also focused on the need to ensure policy continuity and maintain the 7% target for the contribution of biofuels from arable crops to the EU’s renewables objective.
“The figure is the result of a three-year policy debate. This compromise is still being implemented by member states and addresses concerns over the alleged impact of the EU’s biofuels policy on the availability of biomass,” the letter noted.
In addition, the biofuels industry claims that sustainable biofuels that can contribute to the EU bio-economy and circular economy by generating protein and feed for the EU animal sector as well as low-emission biofuels should be differently treated and go beyond the cap.
“These [sustainable biofuels] should be defined as biofuels that: save at least 60% emissions compared to fossil fuel; and are produced from feedstock that complies with mandatory sustainability requirements as set out by the EU Common Agricultural Policy,” the letter reads.
Moreover, the industry believes that an EU-wide cross-checking traceability database needs to be established to “avoid any kind of potential fraud”.
Advanced biofuels should be additional
The first generation biofuels industry does not oppose the promotion of so-called advanced biofuels but says it should be seen as an additional instrument to further reduce fossil fuel use and GHG emissions.
“A policy that plays off biofuels against each other will only protect the market share of fossil fuels, favouring oil imports from unstable regions over renewable fuels which are locally produced from domestic biomass,” the letter pointed out.
“The deployment of advanced biofuels should build on existing legislation and industry, to secure investor confidence, which is a prerequisite for any new investment in renewable fuels projects,” the biofuels industry emphasised.