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  • Transparency key to sustainable EU biofuels supply

    A report in the Netherlands has highlighted the need for greater transparency on the origin and carbon footprint of biofuels if they are to play a role in a more sustainable transport fuels market.

    The report, Biofuels on the Dutch market, was commissioned by a group of Dutch NGOs and was produced by the CE Delft consultancy using the most recent figures (2013). It ranks oil companies supplying biofuels on the Dutch market but it also shows the importance of the Netherlands’ biofuels industry, which is the largest producer of biofuels in Europe.

    Although fewer biofuels made from food crops were consumed in the Netherlands, large Dutch biofuel factories continue to use virgin vegetable oils like palm oil, and these fuels are exported in large quantities to other EU countries. This can happen because not every importer in an EU country wants to know what their biofuels are made from.

    French refiner Total came bottom of the ranking because of its high CO2 emissions resulting from the indirect land-use change (ILUC) caused by the food crops grown to make its biofuels. A spokesman for Natuur en Milieu (N&M) said: ‘Food crops should be used for food, not for cars. We therefore call for biofuels made from food crops to be phased out all across Europe.’

    One of the report’s key recommendations is: ‘Transparency helps to incentivise fuel suppliers to supply biofuels that exceed the minimum criteria set in the Renewable Energy Directive. Whilst this effect cannot be quantified, it is recommended to roll out this transparency and annual reporting throughout the EU, to maximise the effect and enable European monitoring and reporting on this level.’

    N&M added: ‘It is insane that European car drivers still do not know where their petrol originates from. With the implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive into national law, we can reach the same transparency for both biofuels and fossil fuels.’

    T&E clean fuels officer Laura Buffet said: ‘The report’s message on transparency about where biofuels come from and their climate impacts is really important, more important than the ranking itself. The Dutch and the British are the only two countries that proactively publish company-specific data on the biofuels being supplied. The amount of transparency must be improved, but these two countries are leading the way in showing the minimum level of transparency we should expect across the EU.’

    The report was commissioned by five Dutch NGOs, including T&E member Natuur en Milieu. This is the third time it has appeared, and T&E has helped to fund it in the past.

    Biodiesel, mainly derived from rapeseed, soy and palm oil, accounts for over three-quarters of all biofuels used in Europe. When you take its ILUC emissions into account, the production of biodiesel actually produces more carbon emissions than the conventional diesel they were designed to replace.