Biofuels strategy published … and criticised
The EU now has a “strategy for biofuels” after the Commission adopted a controversial paper last month.
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Though the strategy is a general one and was launched by the commissioners for agriculture and development, it is clear from the aims that this is intended to be a major instrument in reducing transport’s contribution to global warming.
The strategy has three main aims and seven areas of action. The aims are: to promote biofuels in both the EU and developing countries; to prepare for large-scale use of biofuels by improving their cost-competitiveness; and to support developing countries’ production of plants to make biofuels.
But environmental NGOs have expressed serious doubts about the strategy for various reasons. These range from concerns about insufficient safeguards on eco-certification of the agricultural raw materials used to make biofuels, to outright rejection of the strategy’s plan to allow the use biofuels to count towards carbon dioxide emissions targets for car fleets – the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) described this element as “outrageous” and called on MEPs and ministers to remove it.
T&E policy officer Aat Peterse said: “There is some potential for biofuels to deliver certain environmental benefits, but however surprised some people may be to hear environmental organisations playing down an idea that ought to be suited to them, it is important that we are honest about the limits to what biofuels can do.
“The benefits will only be delivered if the production of biofuels is sustainable in terms of its impact on biodiversity, water and soil, and if an adequate eco-certification process is applied to all biofuels used in the EU.”
One of the strategy’s seven areas of action is to see how much biofuels can contribute to removing some of the need for oil in transport.
The EEB’s general secretary John Hontelez said: “Biofuels are just one solution to climate change, not a panacea. Europe’s transport sector could make much more effective environmental gains through increased fuel efficiency and promoting cleaner transport modes.”
• Germany looks set to join the growing trend towards abolishing tax incentives for biofuels and replacing them with a requirement for transport fuels to have a minimum biofuel content. The German finance ministry wants the change to happen in August.