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EU Parliament votes to limit conventional biofuels at 6%

11 September 2013

The European Parliament has adopted changes to the draft biofuels legislation that would limit the use of conventional biofuels at 6% of the overall transport fuel demand and supported the use of indirect land use change (ILUC) factors in the calculation of GHG effects of biofuels. The Parliament, however, has not given the rapporteur a mandate to negotiate with member states, meaning that a lengthy regulatory process may be needed before the legislation is finalized.

The use of biofuels made from agricultural feedstocks would be limited at 6%, compared to a 10% target that is required by 2020 under the current EU biofuels legislation. The gap would be filled by “advanced biofuels”, such as those made from seaweed or certain types of waste. Advanced biofuels should represent at least 2.5% of energy consumption in transport by 2020, MEPs said.

The 6% limit would effectively prevent any increase in the use of biodiesel made from such crops as rapeseed, palm and soy. According to the current EU greenhouse gas emission calculation methods, the use of biodiesel from rapeseed, palm or soy increases the lifecycle GHG emissions compared to petroleum diesel fuel.

The MEPs also backed an amendment—proposed by the EP Environment Committee—to include ILUC factors in the calculation of GHG effects of biofuels for compliance with the Fuel Quality Directive that sets a target of a 6% GHG reduction for fuels used in the transport sector in 2020.

“I welcome the Parliament vote in favor of correct accounting of greenhouse gas emissions including indirect land use change and in favor of a reasonable cap on first generation biofuels. This is an important signal that support should be focused on advanced biofuels from 2020. Taking indirect land use change into account is important for the integrity of the EU climate change policy”, said the rapporteur MEP Corinne Lepage (ALDE, FR) after the vote. “I regret however that the Parliament did not give a negotiation mandate that would have allowed the file to be concluded without further delay in order to give industry certainty regarding its investments”, she added.

The amendments to the draft legislation were approved with 356 votes in flavor to 327 against and 14 abstentions.

Rapporteur Ms Lepage was two votes short of receiving a mandate to negotiate with member states, who will now seek a common position of their own. If different to Parliament’s first reading text, a second reading will be required. The talks are likely to extend into the next year. In case the biofuels package is not finalized by the European Parliament elections scheduled for May 2014, the rulemaking process may be pushed into 2015.

Conventional biofuels already account for about 5% of total EU transportation fuels, and the installed production capacity is almost sufficient for meeting the 10% target. A limit of about 6% would deliver a serious blow to the once booming European biofuels industry and require some biofuel production plants to close.

Source: European Parliament | Reuters