Parliament’s Energy Committee fails to fix EU biofuels policy

Members of the European Parliament’s Energy Committee in a vote today weakened an already modest proposal to fix EU biofuels policy, hampering the transition towards more sustainable biofuels. MEPs voted not only against accounting for biofuel emissions from indirect land-use change (ILUC) but even against reporting them [1], allowing biofuels that increase emissions compared to conventional diesel and petrol to count towards the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020 [2]. 

Reacting to the vote, T&E’s transport fuels manager Nusa Urbancic, said: “It is baffling that Parliamentarians in charge of the EU’s energy policy want to make energy dirtier and more expensive and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the wealth of scientific evidence on the indirect land-use change effects of today’s biofuels. MEPs voted to increase the limit on food-based biofuels, trash ILUC factors, and prolong the failed policy of quantity-based targets for biofuels after 2020.”
 
MEPs of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee voted to cap at 6.5% the use of food-based biofuels that are eligible to count for carbon reduction targets, which will lead to a one-off release of up to 300 million tonnes of CO2 compared to the 5% limit proposed by the Commission in October last year. This is equivalent to Poland’s total CO2 emissions in 2010.  They also set a post-2020 target of 4% for so-called "advanced biofuels", whereas the best policy to stimulate better biofuels would be to drop such quantity targets entirely and replace them by a greenhouse gas based one, like in the Fuel Quality Directive.
 
The Environment Committee of the European Parliament, the other leading committee on this file, will vote on July 10th. The vote in the Plenary will take place this September.
 
“The task of the Environment Committee is straightforward. MEPs need to set the environmental record of this proposal straight and introduce ILUC factors, set a cap on food-based biofuels below 5% and replace post-2020 volume targets with a greenhouse gas target. Otherwise, Europe will keep fostering the production of biofuels that do more harm than good to the environment,” Nusa Urbancic concluded.
 
Notes to editors:
(1) ILUC happens when land previously used to grow crops for food is converted to grow crops for fuel. As food will have to be grown somewhere else because demand for food remains constant, this will result in an overall increase in emissions caused by biofuels. Watch a short video about biofuels at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=igUtLwruUjA.
 
(2) The EU regulates the use of biofuels through two laws with a 2020 time horizon. The renewable energy directive (RED) sets a 10% target for renewable energy in transport. The fuel quality directive (FQD) requires a 6% reduction in the carbon footprint from transport fuels. In practice, these two targets led to EU countries subsidising and mandating biofuels to meet them, provided they reduce emissions compared with fossil fuels. Both laws therefore have rules for calculating the direct carbon emissions from biofuels but these leave out ILUC emissions.