Best time for biofuel plan, says EU

The EU Commission is stepping up efforts to encourage alternative energy production throughout Europe, launching a new “biofuels strategy” in Brussels on Wednesday (8 February).


“This is the best possible time to introduce a new strategy,” said agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.


“Crude oil prices remain high, we face stringent targets under the Kyoto Protocol and the recent controversy over imports of Russian gas has underlined the importance of increasing self-sufficiency.”


The new strategy is based on a seven-point plan, pulling together a range of measures the commission will take to promote the production and use of biofuels.


Top of the list will be efforts to stimulate demand, including a review of the 2003 Biofuels Directive and existing biofuel targets.


Mrs Fischer Boel pointed out that to reach the 5.75% inclusion rate in road fuels by 2010 would require 17.5m hectares of land to be sown to non-food crops out of 96m hectares in the EU.


While this was possible, it was not realistic, she told journalists.


“The fact is today we are only able to achieve 1.4% inclusion,” she said.


The EU would, therefore, continue to rely on imports.


But the commission would also consider making the inclusion rates mandatory and could even raise the targets as part of the review.


Brussels will also consider converting cereal stocks into bioethanol and will make sugar beet eligible for biofuel support schemes.


But the European Environmental Bureau warned that a headlong rush to biofuel production could jeopardise environmental sustainability.


The World Wildlife Fund also called for “eco-certification” to make sure biofuel promotion does not do more harm than good.


philip.clarke@rbi.co.uk