EU policymakers must send industry a 'strong signal' to invest in advanced biofuels

Only by taking indirect land use change into account will Europe ensure that it produces 'truly sustainable' biofuels, writes Piernicola Pedicini.

By Piernicola Pedicini

Piernicola Pedicini (IT, NA) is a shadow rapporteur for Parliament’s Reduction of the Impact of Certain Plastic Products on the Environment report

20 Feb 2015

The so-called 'indirect land use change (ILUC) dossier' has been debated for a long time and I deeply regret that the Italian presidency of the European council did not give it the priority it deserved, losing a number of crucial months in the EU decision making process.

It is my view that we need to finalise this file shortly and move forward on the EU's strategy to decarbonise the transport sector with a view to a 2030 framework. Biofuels are only a part of this strategy not the solution.

Other options must be assessed and promoted, such as electrification. I do not think we should promote one specific technology but choose the most sustainable ones, with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions and the lowest ILUC effects.

In my opinion, the first important steps to take are setting a cap on first generation biofuels and accounting for the ILUC factors in the calculation of the life cycle assessment of fuels and biofuels, in order to make sure that only truly sustainable biofuels are promoted.

"The first important steps to take are setting a cap on first generation biofuels and accounting for the ILUC factors in the calculation of the life cycle assessment of fuels and biofuels"

I see potential in this area and for this reason I support the 1.25 per cent (double counted) binding target for advanced biofuels in 2020 as proposed by the rapporteur. This would send a strong signal to the industry to invest in advanced biofuels.

However, we see risks for some advanced biofuels using feedstocks which are also used by other industries. By double counting the energy content produced by these advanced biofuels, we would create unfair competition and we would not comply with the cascading principle (the use of raw materials or by-products for other purposes) or the waste hierarchy.

We need to make sure that only those feedstocks which are not reusable or recyclable are used for the production of advanced biofuels. For example, residues from the wood industry are reused and recycled in the production of wooden panels and furniture.

Another example is tall oil, used by the chemical industry. We proposed an amendment which requires the European commission to assess the impact on other industries of the use of these feedstocks for advanced biofuels. The commission should also assess the list and add or delete feedstocks in accordance with scientific progress and technical development.

I rejected the concept of 'low ILUC' biofuels, as proposed by the European council, because in its current form it is vague and would give too much flexibility to member states in defining what low ILUC is.

"We need to make sure that only those feedstocks which are not reusable or recyclable are used for the production of advanced biofuels"

If such a concept is introduced, it should be supported by a clear methodology. We have also opposed another clause introduced by the council, the so-called 'grandfathering' clause, which would allow old rules to continue to apply to some existing situations, while new rules would apply to future situations.

This would jeopardise the harmonisation of EU legislation as could happen in the case of installations using feedstock which had been previously defined as 'advanced' in national legislation and thus counting towards the 10 per cent renewable energy target in the transport sector, while the same feedstock does not count towards the target according to the EU legislation.

We also believe that ILUC factors should be reported and accounted in both the fuel quality and renewable energy directives to really push the development of truly sustainable biofuels. I hope that my colleagues and some EU member states will share my forward looking and ambitious view.

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