EC Proposes Steps to Minimize Climate Impact of Biofuel Production

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | October 18, 2012, Thursday // 12:29
Bulgaria: EC Proposes Steps to Minimize Climate Impact of Biofuel Production The European Commission published Wednesday a proposal to to limit global land conversion for biofuel production, and raise the climate benefits of biofuels used in the EU. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Biofuels are one of the ways to reduce economies' oil dependence, yet their production raises serious questions, the EC acknowledges.

A publication by Bulgarian business portal investor.bg on the topic notes that many EU countries saw biofuels as a solution to the problem of environmental pollution and to that of oil dependence, which made them stimulate the production of crops like rapeseed used to make biofuels.

These policies, however, led to an imbalance in agriculture – more and more land intended for food crops was being used to produce biofuel.

To do away with this problem, the European Commission published Wednesday a proposal to to limit global land conversion for biofuel production, and raise the climate benefits of biofuels used in the EU.

"The use of food-based biofuels to meet the 10% renewable energy target of the Renewable Energy Directive will be limited to 5%," the EC said in a media statement.

The EC explained the move was aimed at stimulating the development of alternative, so-called second generation biofuels from non-food feedstock, like waste or straw, which emit substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and do not directly interfere with global food production.

"For the first time, the estimated global land conversion impacts – Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) – will be considered when assessing the greenhouse gas performance of biofuels," the EC noted.

'"For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels. We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food. We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable," Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said.

The Commission noted that effciiently and sustainably produced biofuels were a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels in the EU's energy mix, adding that biofuels were easy to store and deploy, had a high energy density and typically emitted substantially less greenhouse gases than oil, gas or coal.

In its October 17 press release, the EC also drew attention to the fact that scientists had shown that some biofuels were contributing to greenhouse gas emissions as much as the fossil fuels they replaced, given the indirect land use change, for example when biofuel production caused food or feed production to be displaced to non-agricultural land such as forests.

The EC suggested amendments to the existing legislation in the sphere of biofuels.

Under the Commission's proposal, the minimum greenhouse gas saving threshold for new installations was to be increased to 60% in order to improve the efficiency of biofuel production processes as well as to discourage further investments in installations with low greenhouse gas performance.

The EC suggested that indirect land use change (ILUC) factors had to be included in the reporting by fuel suppliers and EU Member States of greenhouse gas savings of biofuels and bioliquids.

The Commission also recommended limiting the amount of food crop-based biofuels and bioliquids that can be counted towards the EU's 10% target for renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020, to the current consumption level, 5% up to 2020, while keeping the overall renewable energy and carbon intensity reduction targets.

The EC also proposed market incentives for biofuels with no or low indirect land use change emissions, and in particular the 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels produced from feedstock that do not create an additional demand for land, including algae, straw, and various types of waste.

"With these new measures, the Commission wants to promote biofuels that help achieving substantial emission cuts, do not directly compete with food and are more sustainable at the same time," the EC concluded.

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Tags: European Commission, biofuel, rapeseed, agricultural land, crops, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy
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