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Energy ministers fail to agree on biofuels policy

By Melissa Wevers and Ian Freeman

European energy ministers have rejected a compromise proposal for a 7 per cent threshold for conventional biofuels as part of the renewable transport fuel target. Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands remain opposed to raising the biofuels cap to 7 per cent but failed to reach agreement with other member states on a revised figure.

Oxfam, a long-term campaigner against ‘food crop-based’ biofuels, repeated its call for member states to resist ‘using food for fuel’. The charity’s European Union economic justice policy lead Marc Olivier Herman said: “All member states, especially influential countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom must take a firm stance against using food for fuel and stand up in favour of people and the planet. An increase of food-based biofuels from the recommended European Commission level of 5 per cent to 7 per cent is the equivalent of enough food to feed 69 million people every year.”

The European Union Lithuanian Presidency issued a draft compromise at the end of November, aimed at reducing the use of first-generation biofuels and the impact of biofuels policy on indirect land use changes. Critics claimed that first-generation biofuels were actually causing increased carbon dioxide emissions through deforestation – in order to make land available for the food crops that make biofuel in the first place.

The commission’s original proposal in October 2012, amending the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, introduced a 5 per cent limit for counting food crop-based biofuels towards the 10 per cent target for renewable energy in transport fuels by 2020. In September, the European Parliament voted for a 6 per cent cap. Commentators expect a final deal between the European Parliament and EU member states to be struck in the coming months.

Melissa Wevers and Ian Freeman are researchers at Brussels communications company ResEuropa – a Policy Review partner


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