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Environment Committee’s vote on RED II wrongly penalises conventional biofuels

The European Parliament Environment Committee’s vote October 23 to phase-out the use of biofuels by 2030 seriously undermines the EU’s climate and sustainability objectives. It diverges sharply from the latest draft proposal from the EU Council, which safeguards the role of biofuels in the renewable energy framework says EU Biofuels Value Chain.

Conventional biofuels that use feed-grade grains like maize also produce co-products used in the food and feed industries.

Conventional biofuels that use feed-grade grains like maize also produce co-products used in the food and feed industries.

In a joint statement, the EU Biofuels Value Chain –  European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL), European Biodiesel Board (EBB), European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), European Association of Cereals, Rice, Feedstuffs, Oilseeds, Olive oil, Oils and Fats and Agrosupply (COCERAL), European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), International Confederation of European Beet Growers (C.I.B.E), European Confederation of Maize Production (CEPM) and Copa & Cogeca – calls for EU to recognise importance of conventional biofuels to energy, transport and agriculture

According to the statement, the Green Rapporteur MEP Bas Eickhout highlighted ahead of the vote in the Environment Committee (ENVI), that the “beneficiary” of the recast of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) “should be the climate.”

But Eickhout’s proposal falls short of ambition in this sense since it does not include a dedicated target for the use of renewable energy in the transport sector and calls for a phase-out of biofuels, which are essential for agricultural sustainability and represent the most cost-effective and readily available solution to decarbonise the transport sector. Beyond that, it prevents the potential of valorisation of EU agricultural biomass.

The EU should create a policy framework which supports all sustainable forms of renewable energy and contributes to the reduction of fossil fuels’ use and protein feed imports. EU biofuels have proven to do all that, said Pekka Pesonen, Secretary-General for Copa and Cogeca and actings as spokesperson speaking on behalf of the eight associations represented in the EU Biofuel Chain.

Delivers cost- and climate savings

In particular, the development of first-generation biofuels has resulted in some 35 million tonnes of gross avoided carbon dioxide ( CO2) emissions in 2013. The deployment of renewable energies in transport led to a 116 million tonnes oil equivalent (toe) drop in EU demand for fossil fuels and, more importantly for the EU’s security of supply, to savings of EUR 30 billion per year thanks to avoided imported fuel costs.

Moreover, the production of biofuels from arable crops triggers the co-production of high-value protein meal and animal feed which replace 4 to 5 million hectares of imported feedstock. This increases the EU protein self-sufficiency and avoids environmental impacts elsewhere.

All these benefits, however, have been disregarded in ENVI’s vote to the advantage of the fossil fuel industry.

The Environment Committee has focused all its efforts in trying to get rid of biofuels on the basis of alleged sustainability risks. In doing so, it has completely overlooked the big picture, which is the fact that 95 percent of EU road transport still relies on fossil fuels, said Nathalie Lecocq, Director-General of FEDIOL.

Existing biofuels essential to develop advanced biofuels

In this regard, while welcoming the enhanced focus on new-technology biofuels proposed in the Environment Committee’s opinion, the EU Biofuel Chain regrets the adopted approach which opts to further develop an industry at the expense of the existing one. It is essential for the EU to recognise the role of the biofuels industry in the development of new technology biofuels: enabling long-term investments in them will require the involvement of the investors of crop-based biofuels.

It is essential for the EU to recognise the role of the biofuels industry in the development of new technology biofuels.

In that sense, the EU Biofuel Chain welcomes the latest proposal by the EU Council, which sets a 15 percent target for renewable energy in transport and recognises the key role of first-generation biofuels towards this target by maintaining the current 7 percent cap. Unlike ENVI’s approach, these elements would certainly send a positive signal to investors and respond to the EU’s strategic interests in terms of climate ambition, as well as protein and fossil fuel dependency.

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