European Commission to review biofuels production

by Stephen Hurrell. Published Fri 31 Jul 2009 12:17, Last updated: 2009-07-31
The EU will review biofuels legislation

The European Commission will investigate the environmental impact of clearing forests for biofuel production.

Although biofuels are an environmentally friendly source of energy, the areas used to produce them are replacing large forests and food production. These 'indirect land-use changes' could have an impact on greenhouse gases.

The EU’s new Renewable Energy Directive has set a target of 10 percent of transport fuel coming from renewable sources by 2020 in all member states. However, the directive fails to take measures against the possible impact of producing these fuels.

Now the EU is coming up with an ambitious plan to introduce legislation by as early as March next year. This will deal with the environmental impact of growing biofuels in EU countries.

A consultation paper by the Commission's transport and energy (TREN) and environment departments lists several options to take into account the effects of land-use change.

The report suggests a universal label on European commodities stating their compliance with any regulations that are passed by the Commission. On the subject of biofuels, the report outlines the need for tighter greenhouse gas laws to take into account indirect damage to the environment in the production of the eco-friendly fuel.

However, experts questioned how indirect land use would be calculated and urged the Commission to take into account positive effects of biofuel production as well. For example, animal feed is produced as a co-product of biofuels, which reduces the need to expand soy production in Third World countries in order to export it to Europe.

"We question whether it's possible to come up with any macroeconomic model that is able to explain indirect land-use changes because of the production of biofuels. We don't believe this is possible, but we need to wait and see what science is going to deliver," said Rob Vierhout, Secretary-General of the European Bioethanol Fuel Association.

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