EU ministers reject reduction of arable biofuels

A proposal to limit the use of arable crop-based biofuels in meeting Europe’s renewable energy targets has been rejected for the time being.

EU ministers voted last week against proposals to reduce the use of these biofuels in the Renewable Energy Directive. The directive requires that a minimum of 10% of EU road transport fuel come from renewable sources by 2020.

The proposal, which was rejected, would have reduced the contribution arable crops – including wheat, oilseed rape and sugar beet – could make to this target from 10% to 7%.

The UK government, led by the Department for Transport, voted to support the proposal and take it further by reducing the contribution of arable crop-based biofuels to 5%.

Farmers and industry invested heavily after the EU agreed on the biofuels targets in 2006, said Pekka Pesonen, secretary general of Copa-Cogeca, the EU-wide agricultural union and co-operative.

The Lithuanian proposal threatened the EU’s energy and climate change targets and livestock feed supplies, he said.

“The by-products from conventional biofuel production, such as rapeseed meal, beet pulp and dried distillers grains play a crucial role on the feed protein market.”

The rejected proposal has been sidelined for now, but may be reconsidered following fresh EU elections in May 2014 said the NFU. Whether or not it is reconsidered will largely depend on the appetite of the new commission.

Also rejected, was the use of “iLUC” factors, which were designed to measure the likely land use change from growing biofuel crops, and the impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

iLuc had proved controversial and the NFU and Copa-Cogeca argued it lacked sound scientific basis and transparency.

“It was a crude measure of something very difficult to quantify,” said James Mills, combinable crops advisor at the NFU.

On a positive note, said Mr Mills, NFU proposals are still on the table with the government to increase the proportion of biofuels in UK transport from the current 4.75% target to 10% by 2020.

An alternative model for measuring likely land use change and greenhouse gas emissions is currently being discussed on by the NFU and other organisations across the EU.

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