• Support for biofuels based on carbon reduction

    Great Britain is set to become the first EU member to base support for biofuels on the amount of carbon saved and other sustainability criteria.


    The announcement is a development of current British policy on biofuels, which currently sets a target of 5% of road fuel sales to come from biomass by 2010 but without differentiating between biofuels. From April 2010, the UK will reward biofuels based on how much carbon they save, and from 2011 it will reward them only if they meet appropriate sustainability standards.

    As a result, it says future standards will be based not on biofuels consumption but on greenhouse gas savings from biofuels use, and it wants to explore the feasibility of a voluntary labelling scheme to show motorists the most sustainable fuels.

    Germany has indicated it may soon do the same.

    Meanwhile, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) has warned that biomass is “not an inexhaustible resource”, and says that if broad environmental and nature protection goals are taken into account, the role of biomass will only cover a small percentage of primary energy needs.

    In its paper “Climate Change by Biomass”, the SRU says using biomass for transport fuels risks wasting a valuable resource on the wrong priorities.. “Biomass can be used up to three times more efficiently in heating and combined heat and power than in producing the currently used biodiesel and bioethanol.”

    Last month, the International Transport Forum (formerly European Conference of Ministers of Transport) said: “Few biofuels seem to offer much in the way of climate protection or oil security … California has legislated for a more effective, less costly approach with a fuel carbon content target covering oil, gas, hydrogen, fuel cells, as well as biofuels.”

    It suggested the EU should now introduce a similar system to take over from simple production targets. The EU is currently discussing having a binding target for biofuels in the transport sector of 10% by 2020.

    At a biofuels conference in Brussels this month, the EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said: “Biofuel policy is not ultimately an industrial or an agricultural policy – it is an environmental policy.” The significance of this lies in the fact that when environment NGOs have highlighted concerns over biofuels, EU officials have responded by saying boosting biofuels is also meant to bene- fit industry and agriculture.

    This news story is taken from the July 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.