September 12, 2008

European Parliament Insists on Second Generation Biofuels

I don't know if the Gallagher Report had any influence on their thinking, but the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has decided to back the proposals put forward by Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes to mandate the use of second generation biofuels as part of the overall EU targets for the adoption of biofuels.  The proposals also require that first-generation biofuels (manufactured from food crops such as corn,  sugar and rapeseed), would need to meet strict sustainability criteria in order to count towards EU targets. These include social factors such as fair pay for all workers and respect for the land rights of local communities, as well as a requirement for biofuels to reduce carbon emissions by at least 45% compared to fossil fuels,  rising to 60% in 2015.

The reactions of various interested parties were fairly predictable. Environmental groups welcomed the new proposals.  Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe commented that:

The vote by the European Parliament recognises the serious problems associated with the large scale use of biofuels. This is a welcome step in the right direction but much still needs to be done. Using crops to feed cars is a false solution to our climate problems and could lead to irreversible loss of wildlife and misery for millions of people in the South.

and Frauke Thies from Greenpeace said that:

We are moving closer to the energy revolution in the fight against climate change. It´s now up to member states to seal the deal. Today´s vote in the Parliament shows that the tide is finally turning against unsustainable biofuels, but we´re not home and dry yet.

However members of the agrofuels industry expressed "deep disappointment".  Raffaello Garofalo of the European Biodiesel Board said that:

If this decision is confirmed in the forthcoming plenary vote, it will strongly affect the credibility of the European Parliament, especially with regard to past commitments. It is sad that legislators have been swayed by superficial arguments linking biofuels to food price rises. If the Parliament will go back on its word on 5,75%, regressing to a 4% target, should our industry dismantle over 4 million tonnes (the 1,5% difference) of its existing capacities? Can this be the acceptable result of a new Directive on the promotion of Renewable Energy Sources?

whereas Robert Vierhout of the European Bioethanol Fuel Association put it this way:

We welcome today’s recognition of the key role renewable energy plays in cutting carbon emissions. However, the amendments adopted by the European Parliament’s Industry Committee on biofuels are counterproductive in reducing our dependency on imported and polluting fossil fuels…. By hampering the European industry’s development, Europe risks missing a unique opportunity to be the best, not only in sustainable production but also in setting standards worldwide.

I wonder how the citizens of Darfur would vote, if they were given the opportunity of a referendum on the matter?

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