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European farmers beef up crop-based biodiesel with stakeholder debate

The European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL) jointly hosted a stakeholder dinner debate in the European Parliament. The topic was the role of sustainable biodiesel in the low carbon economy post 2020 with panellists representing varied vantage points.

The European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the Vegetable Oil and Protein meal Industry (FEDIOL) jointly hosted a dinner debate in the European Parliament during which panellists from various backgrounds discussed the role of sustainable biodiesel in the low-carbon economy post-2020. The event also allowed EU stakeholders and policymakers to hear Californian experiences through the participation of Stephen Kaffka from the University of California.

Opening the discussions, MEP Françoise Grossetête, Vice-President of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, reminded participants of the challenges that the EU biodiesel producers and farmers are facing following the European Commission’s announcement of a gradual phase-out of crop-based biofuels, aka first generation biofuels.

– The long term stability of the regulatory and policy framework is essential to secure the investments that were made in the European biodiesel sector – whose development was encouraged by the European legislator – and for promoting the development of advanced technologies, said Grossetête.

Protein the point

As can be expected European farmers expressed their serious concerns over the proposed phasing out of first generation biofuels.

– In times of dramatic and existential challenges for EU agriculture, taking away the outlet of biodiesel for the oilseed production would represent a new blow for European farmers, especially in less productive regions. Furthermore, the biodiesel outlet helps in reducing oilseed price volatility, while safeguarding biodiversity, said Arnaud Rousseau, Chair of the Oilseed and Protein Crops Working Group for COPA-COGECA, the umbrella organisation for 57 European farmers’ organisations and 31 agricultural cooperatives.

It was highlighted that European biodiesel production arose on mandatory set-aside lands. This has enabled the significant reduction of the EU protein deficit, guarantee an income for farmers, while producing ILUC-free biodiesel. As such, Yves Madre, co-founder of the think tank FarmEurope, underlined that the large majority of the biodiesel produced from European feedstocks has not had any ILUC emissions.

– European feedstock sourced biodiesel induces the production of 7 million tonnes of additional protein feed materials annually, thus reducing feed imports and attributing an ILUC credit to biodiesel, Madre pointed out.
Panellists and participants also exchanged and shared experiences from across the Atlantic. Professor Steve Kaffka explained the policy environment in California and highlighted that the work done by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on ILUC has been incremental in developing incentive policies for biodiesel.

– The study carried out by the CARB found that rapeseed biodiesel has a low ILUC impact, classifying it among the best biofuels. Hence it has been the basis for an alternative fuel policy that encourages innovation and relies on consistent and publicly transparent methods. As a result, biodiesel will play an increasingly larger role in helping California achieve its transportation GHG reduction goals in the next several years, said Kaffka.

Ms Marie Donnelly, Director for Renewables, Research and Innovation, and Energy Efficiency at DG Energy, highlighted that the biofuels debate is still very emotive and that “ILUC is not an exact science”. The European Commission (EC) is assessing the different options for the post-2020 energy package. The three organising hosts of the stakeholder dinner debate reminded participants that a week after the Paris Agreement was ratified by the EU, and given the ambition of  being the world leader in renewable energy, it is “crucial to continue to promote sustainable energy sources such as European sustainable biodiesel in the transport sector, in order to reduce our carbon footprint and efficiently fight climate change”.

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