MEPs vote to end public support for food-based biodiesel including palm oil

The environment committee of the European Parliament voted today to phase out the support for biodiesel from vegetable oils in 2030 and terminate the use of palm oil biodiesel as early as 2021. However, MEPs decided to exempt some food-based biofuels such as bioethanol and crops grown on marginal land from this phase out. They also voted to increase the overall target for advanced fuels to 9% of fuels supplied in 2030. Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes the decision to stop food-based biodiesel but warns that the proposed blending mandate for advanced biofuels is too high to be sustainable.

T&E’s analysis, based on the results of the Globiom study for the European Commission, shows that on average EU food-based biodiesel produces 80% more CO2 emissions than the fossil diesel it replaces. Biodiesel made from palm oil is three times worse for the climate than fossil diesel. Four out of every five litres of biofuel consumed in Europe is biodiesel [1].

Laura Buffet, clean fuels manager at T&E, said: “We welcome the Parliament decision to stop the use of high-emitting biodiesel from palm oil, rapeseed and soy in European cars. This is good news for the climate, the world’s rainforests and people around the world living out of their land.”

MEPs rejected setting a new overall target for the transport sector, which in practice would have mandated the use of high-emitting, food-based biofuels through the back door. However, T&E warns about the high level of the blending mandate for advanced biofuels, notably because of the limited availability and competing demands for advanced biofuel feedstocks.

Laura Buffet said: ”This vote puts the EU clean fuels policy on a cleaner track, but it still leaves the door open to some food-based biofuels in 2030. We urge the rest of the European Parliament to confirm this vote and reject a new overall target for the transport sector, which would mandate the use of high-emitting, food-based biofuels through the back door.”

The EU policy push for crop-based biodiesel has led to the creation of a growing market for vegetable oils. Between 2005 and 2015, total vegetable oil consumption in the EU decreased in the food sector (from 15.1 to 13.7 million tonnes), whereas it almost quadrupled in the bioenergy sector (going from 2.9 to 10.5 million tonnes) [2]. More than half (53%) of feedstocks (vegetable oils mainly from rapeseed, palm and soy) used to produce crop biodiesel in EU installations in 2015 was imported [3].

The European Parliament is currently reviewing a Commission proposal to recast the Renewable Energy Directive. The industry committee vote on this file will be on 28 November 2017. A vote in plenary is expected for January 2018.

Notes to editors:

[1] 2017 EU Energy Statistical Pocketbook

[2] European Commission DG AGRI Medium-Term Agricultural Outlook

[3] European Commission DG AGRI Medium-Term Agricultural Outlook

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Nico Muzi
Communications Director
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