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EU plans to support food-based biofuels through 2030

23 November 2016

Land-based biofuels, such as biodiesel and bioethanol, will continue to be supported in the post-2020 EU transportation fuel sector, according to leaked draft annexes from the European Commission’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED). However, the maximum proportion of land-based biofuels will be decreased to 3.8% in 2030. In 2014, the use of biofuel in EU transportation fuels amounted to 4.9%.

The draft document shows that land-based biofuels—meaning fuels made from food and feed crops—will remain capped at 7% through 2021. Starting in 2022, the cap would be reduced by 0.3% a year, to reach 5.8% in 2025, and by 0.4% a year starting in 2026. In 2030, the use of liquid biofuels from food and feed crops in transportation fuels would be capped at 3.8%.

EU legislation introduced around 2005 envisioned increasing biofuel mandates in transportation fuels, to reach 10% in 2020. Once newer GHG emission models—which accounted for emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC)—concluded that the use of land-based, “first generation” biofuels can actually increase GHG emissions compared to petroleum fuels, the EU biofuel mandates have been scaled down. Current regulations cap the maximum proportion of land-based biofuels in transportation fuels at 7% through 2020.

The leaked text would indicate a reversal from the European Commission’s 2030 climate and energy policy, which declared that first-generation biofuels should not be supported after 2020 due to ILUC emissions.

The apparent policy change in favor of land-based biofuels—a welcome news for the biofuel industry—has been criticized by environmental groups. According to the T&E Group, first generation biofuels have average GHG emissions 52% above those of the fossil fuel they replace, based on the predicted biofuel mix of 2020. A large proportion of EU biofuels has been produced from palm oil, a feedstock linked to particularly high GHG emissions and to large scale deforestation and environmental degradation in South-East Asia.

Source: Politico.eu—leaked draft RED Annexes