EU committee votes to cap first-generation biofuels

By Erin Voegele | February 24, 2015

On Feb. 24, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament approved a draft law to cap the production of traditional biofuels and accelerate the shift to alternative feedstocks, such as seaweed and waste. According to information released by the committee, the law aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission that result from the growing use of agricultural land to produce biofuel crops.

A statement released by the committee explains current legislation requires EU member states to ensure renewable energy accounts for at least 10 percent of transportation energy consumption by 2020. The draft law approved by the committee on Feb. 24 would place a cap on the contribution of first-generation biofuels, limiting them to 6 percent of final transportation energy consumption by 2020. A 1.25 percent goal would be specifically set for advanced biofuels sourced from seaweed or certain types of waste.

Information published by ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association, indicates that in addition to adopting Member of Parliament Nils Torvalds draft law, the committee also granted him a mandate to negotiate with the Council, with a view of finalizing an agreement in April. ePURE said it welcomes the outcome of the vote. While it was not perfect, the organization said it is an important step forward in the process of reforming Europe’s biofuels policy.

According to ePURE, the committee recognized the importance of both conventional and advanced ethanol as a low-carbon fuel by reintroducing the minimum renewables target in gasoline, as well as a binding target for advanced biofuels. The committee also called on the European Commission to elaborate on the identification and certification of low indirect land use change (ILUC) risk biofuels.

“The Committee has recognized that the most effective way to address ILUC is to provide dedicated support for ethanol with its strong record of GHG savings, even if ILUC was accounted for. Adopting ambitious yet realistic binding measures for advanced biofuels and incentivizing biofuels that mitigate or prevent ILUC are also beneficial measures adopted by the Committee. These measures combined will maximize the GHG emissions savings that can be achieved by Europe's biofuels policy,” said Robert Wright, secretary general of ePURE.

“We look towards the Council to remain firm on a minimum 7 percent cap for conventional biofuel while allowing the process to move forward. The industry needs a policy outcome that will provide us with certainty and a longer-term perspective beyond 2020,” Wright concluded.

ePURE also indicated it has been calling for a construction end to Europe’s prolonged policy debate over biofuels in order to provide investors with a clear, stable policy that will enable significant and long-term investments.