End high-emitting biofuels for transport, lead MEP proposes

The move to effectively disqualify high-emitting biofuels – mainly food-based biodiesel such as palm oil or rapeseed – from use in Europe’s cars and trucks, proposed today by the lead MEP on biofuels policy reform, has been welcomed by green transport group Transport & Environment (T&E). EU countries would, for the first time, have to account for the indirect land-use change (ILUC) emissions of biofuels under the Renewable Energy Directive [1], according to the draft report for the European Parliament’s environment committee.

On average, food-based biodiesel are, with ILUC emissions included, 80% worse for the climate than the fossil diesel they replace [2]. With ILUC accounting, only biofuels that deliver real, significant CO2 savings will qualify for public support and can be counted towards meeting the clean transport fuel target.

Laura Buffet, clean fuels manager at T&E, said: “The report, if implemented, means European drivers will no longer be forced to burn high-emitting food-based biofuels, especially palm oil biodiesel which is three times worse for the climate than fossil diesel. This is a good policy instrument based on the best science available to end support for high-polluting fuels.”

The report calls for an end of the financial support to bioenergy produced from food and feed crops. Meanwhile, it would stimulate the use of renewable electricity in transport by creating a workable market space for it.

Laura Buffet concluded: “Electricity is much more efficient than liquid fuels in terms of energy output, but the Commission proposal does little to stimulate its use. The rapporteur levels the playing field by promoting renewable electricity in transport in the most cost-effective way. Renewable electrons, not liquids, will contribute the most to cleaning up transport in the future.”

So far the EU biofuels policy has mostly driven the use of the highest emitting food-based biofuels. Mandates for food-based biofuels add extra pressure on agricultural land and have an impact on food prices. In the long run Europe should phase out all biofuels that use productive agricultural land. Instead, Europe should focus on renewable electricity and sustainable liquid fuels made from wastes and residues.

The report tightens sustainability criteria for biomass, by limiting the promotion of bioenergy to waste and residues and including some safeguards for soil quality and biodiversity. Regarding the aviation sector, fuel suppliers would be required to ensure that 6.8% of jet fuel supplied in Europe comes from advanced fuels.

Notes to editors:

[1] EU biofuel mandates have created extra demand for crops, increasing the overall demand for farmland. When existing agricultural land is used to make biofuels, agricultural production has to expand elsewhere, to meet the world’s growing demand for food and animal feed. This pressure for new land leads to deforestation, peatland drainage and conversion of grasslands for farming. This change of land use causes a substantial increase in CO2 emissions, a phenomenon known as indirect land-use change (ILUC).

[2] T&E’s analysis, based on the results of the Globiom study, shows that food-based biodiesel is 80% worse for the climate than fossil diesel in 2020. For instance, biodiesel made from palm oil is three times worse for the climate than fossil diesel. Worryingly, Europe’s cars and trucks have become the top consumers of palm oil in Europe.

Read more:

T&E’s briefing: A target for advanced biofuels

T&E’s briefing: How to make the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) work for renewable electricity in transport

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Nico Muzi
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