MEPs cautiously welcome biofuels reform

The European parliament has approved plans to cap production of environmentally harmful first generation biofuels.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

25 Feb 2015

Nils Torvalds, parliament's rapporteur on fuels and energy from renewable sources: transition to biofuels to deliver greenhouse gas savings, was pleased with the outcome of the vote, explaining, "after years of uncertainty, the European parliament now has a strong mandate to start negotiations with EU member states".

The ALDE deputy will now enter into talks with the council of ministers in order to come to a second reading agreement. And while he is aware this will not be an easy task, he seemed eager to get discussions underway, saying, "I love this kind of political challenge and hope we can deliver a positive result".

At the moment, renewable energy should represent 10 per cent of member states' energy consumption in transport by 2020. If this new law moves forward, first generation biofuels, which are made from food crops, will not be allowed to account for more than six per cent of final energy consumption in transport by 2020. Advanced biofuels, which are made from specific types of waste, will be required to account for at least 1.25 per cent of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

"I love this kind of political challenge and hope we can deliver a positive result" - Nils Torvalds

First generation biofuels have come under fire, as their production takes up farmland and as a result, reduces the space available to produce food. This has led to deforestation in order to free up more land - this is referred to as indirect land use change (ILUC). 

ILUC leads to greenhouse gas emissions, which is of course problematic, considering the use of biofuels is intended as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fuels.

Parliament's Greens/EFA group has cautiously welcomed these new measures, with shadow rapporteur Bas Eickhout saying they would "help ensure the EU is not promoting the use of biofuels that clearly have a negative climate impact".

However, he was critical of the six per cent allowance for first generation biofuels, pointing out that "feeding crops into cars [has given way to] rising food prices and rainforest destruction, and the EU should not be further exacerbating these trends by promoting the use of agricultural land for fuel".

The Dutch MEP called on Europe to "shun the use of food crops for fuel altogether - this six per cent 'cap' is clearly too high".

Meanwhile, EPP deputy Christofer Fjellner was unhappy with the result of the vote, accusing parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee of having "put the entire biofuels reform at risk by picking a symbolic fight with member states".

He added, "there is an apparent risk that the fight against biofuels becomes a fight for petrol and diesel. Instead of supporting the development of better biofuels, it could undermine the entire sector - this is not the push that second generation biofuels needed".


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