PM+: Bioethanol vital in fight to decarbonise EU transport

Written by Robert Wright on 25 February 2015 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

Bioethanol can help fuel a more sustainable European economy but needs dedicated support, argues Robert Wright.

As MEPs consider the indirect land use change (ILUC) dossier's second reading, it may be helpful to take a little step back and focus on what the actual opportunity here is for Europe.

Can Europe have all of the benefits of increased bioethanol use and investments with a low risk of indirect land use change?

If we can, then the EU can have more sustainable transport, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improved fuel security at a time of great geopolitical tension, more investment for rural areas, and improved food security through the high protein animal feed that bioethanol producers make in Europe.

Can we have all these benefits without causing ILUC? Yes we can - particularly if we incentivise bioethanol production with its high net GHG savings, if we promote advanced biofuels, and if we mitigate or avoid ILUC through using under-utilised land and stimulating increased productivity.‎

ILUC is not an irreversible fact, but a risk that can be mitigated and in many cases even be prevented.

This is the clear conclusion of a recent university of Utrecht study that showed that large amounts of sustainable biofuels could be additionally produced in Europe with a low risk of causing ILUC.

That study recommended that the EU should allow certified low-ILUC-risk biofuel production to contribute to Europe’s 2020 renewable energy target.‎

"With European transport over 90 per cent dependent on oil, and now responsible for nearly 30 per cent of Europe’s total GHG emissions, the European bioethanol industry is ready to rise to the challenge"

With European transport over 90 per cent dependent on oil, and now responsible for nearly 30 per cent of Europe’s total GHG emissions, the European bioethanol industry is ready to rise to the challenge.

Our package of recommendations for the European parliament includes a call for a 7.5 per cent binding target for renewable energy use in petrol. We believe that such a target will ensure that ethanol, with its strong record on GHG reductions and low ILUC, will play a major role in decarbonising EU transport.

A 7.5 per cent renewables in petrol target would save 15 million tonnes of GHG emissions, create 55,000 jobs and replace 50 million barrels of imported oil, saving Europe’s economy €4 billion annually.

We also would like to see certification of low-ILUC-risk biofuels and their exemption from any cap on biofuels. This will act as a huge incentive to produce more low-ILUC-risk biofuels in Europe.

These low-ILUC-risk biofuels could supply - at the very least - 13 per cent of Europe’s renewable energy needs in transport by 2020. A truly win-win situation.

"These low-ILUC-risk biofuels could supply - at the very least - 13 per cent of Europe’s renewable energy needs in transport by 2020. A truly win-win situation"

We also need a clear and binding target for advanced biofuels. But such a target should also be realistic. Only a binding target will act as a real spur to the development of advanced biofuels that will deliver even greater benefits for Europe.

Finally, a minimum seven per cent cap on conventional biofuels is needed. This is necessary to support existing investments that have been made by conventional biofuel producers.

These measures combined will save 34 million tonnes of GHG emissions per year in EU transport, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 20 million cars or seven per cent of the total EU vehicle fleet.

Let’s give Europe the renewable fuel to power a sustainable European economy.


About the author

Robert Wright is secretary general of ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association

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