Strasbourgh / FR. (eu) A draft law to cap crop-derived biofuel production and accelerate the shift to alternative sources was voted by Parliament this week. It aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the growing use of farm land for biofuel crops. «We succeeded in getting a very technical, technological and ideological file to go ahead», said lead MEP Nils Torvalds (ALDE, FI), after Parliament endorsed the law (the draft had already been agreed informally by MEPs and ministers). But Torvalds also wondered aloud whether the law, as amended, was tough enough. «We had much higher goals. Both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and technological progress. If Europe does not move forward, it will be left behind. We also have the systemic problem of the blocking minority in Council, which sometimes develops into a dictatorship of the minority, with member states who are afraid of the future», he added.
First-generation biofuels under scrutiny
Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least ten percent of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The new law says that:
- first-generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) should account for no more than seven percent of energy consumption in transport by 2020,
- fuel suppliers must report to EU countries and the EU Commission the estimated level of GHG emissions caused by «indirect land-use change» (ILUC), in example freeing up more to grow food crops, in order to offset that switched to biofuel production,
- The Commission must report and publish data on ILUC-related emissions, and
- The Commission must report back to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on the scope for including ILUC emission figures in the existing sustainability criteria.
Boosting advanced biofuels
EU member states will have to set a national target, no later than 18 months after the EU directive enters into force, for the share of advanced biofuels, for example those sourced from certain types of waste and residues and new sources such as seaweed, in total transport consumption.
Member states must enact the legislation by 2017.
Using farmland to produce biofuel crops reduces the area available for food crops. This adds to pressure to free up more land, for example through deforestation, to grow more food – a process known as indirect land use change (ILUC). But deforestation increases greenhouse gas emissions, which may cancel out part or in some cases even all of the beneficial effects of using biofuels.