Biofuel for transport consumption down 6.8%

EU consumption of biofuel for transport decreased 6.8% in 2013 compared to 2012, according to data released last month. Analysts say the fall – the first since Europe legislated for greater consumption in 2003 – was largely due to regulatory uncertainty.

The European Parliament and member states have yet to reach an agreement on EU biofuels policy reform to address the issue of indirect land-use change (ILUC), whereby extra CO2 emissions are released when non-agricultural land is cleared as a result of growing demand for biofuels. 
 
Energy ministers have so far proposed a cap at 7% on the amount of food crops which can be used as biofuels and count towards the EU renewable energy target. Weak reporting requirements for ILUC remain, however, and ministers also want weak national sub-targets for advanced biofuels. 
 
The Biofuels Barometer study carried out by EurObserv’ER found consumption of biodiesel, which has high ILUC emissions, actually fell 8%, while bioethanol saw a 3% decline.
 
Spain saw one of the biggest drops in biofuel consumption from 2.1 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) to 1.0Mtoe last year. In February it cut its 2014 biofuel target from 6.5% to 4.1%. Germany, the largest consumer of biofuel in Europe, saw its usage decline 9.2% to 2.7 Mtoe last year as a partial tax break for biodiesel came to an end.
 
In contrast, a number of countries increased their consumption. In Sweden, a European leader in advanced biofuel production, consumption actually rose 37% to 0.8 Mtoe. Its road fuel incorporation rate is the highest in the EU. The UK and Denmark also saw rises, while France, Austria and Belgium held steady.
 
Pietro Caloprisco, clean fuels officer at T&E, said: ‘Slowly the message is filtering through that it’s not smart to promote biofuels which increase emissions like biodiesel does. This realisation should result in a EU policy that only promotes biofuels that really deliver greenhouse gas emissions reductions.’
 
A more long-term concern is the absence of a post-2020 decarbonisation target for transport fuels.
 
Discontinuing the decarbonisation target of the Fuel Quality Directive would also render the ILUC reform, which was supposed to deliver its effects post-2020, meaningless. This post-2020 aspect was part of the Commission’s original proposal for the ILUC reform and is the position of the Parliament.