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EU Kills Bill to Limit Food-Based Biofuels

The European Union Parliament’s environment committee has shot down a proposal to limit the use of food-based fuel crops, voting to deny a negotiating mandate to Corinne LePage, the French Liberal MEP in charge of the proposal.

The draft legislation would have put a 6% limit on the share of Europe’s transport fuel that such crops could make up by 2020.

A procedural vote requiring a two-thirds qualified majority, fell by two votes.

The European Commission has proposed to cap the use of ‘first generation' biofuel suspected of causing indirect land use change (ILUC) and generating more greenhouse gas emissions than it abates.

Related article: Synthetics Breakthrough to Increase Biofuel Production by 50%

In 2009, the EU set a target for sourcing 10% of transport fuel to renewable energy by 2020, almost all of it to come from first-generation crop-based fuels. As these food crops already have a 5% share of the EU’s transport market, the 6% limit would have halted the industry in its tracks.

The EU’s Council of Ministers must now agree on a joint position for a new parliamentary vote, which is not likely to happen before May next year, when new elections are scheduled.  

A similar proposal even if passed next year is not likely to be implemented until the following year, but all speculation will be just that with a new set of parliamentarians coming online next May.

LePage was pushing to fast-track the bill in parliament, arguing that the overwhelming majority of industry stakeholders wanted "a quick result" in the name of policy certainty and particularly ahead of next year’s elections.

Conventional biofuel producers, however, are strongly opposed to LePage’s efforts. These groups would be the most affected by the proposed limits and new rules requiring firms to calculate ILUC emissions arising from deforestation and other land clearance for biofuels.

Related article: Big Oil Breaks Out Legal Guns Over Ethanol

Biofuels producers argued that the proposal would not only destroy their businesses, but would also destroy the massive investments made based on original EU policy designed to encourage biofuel.  They say the science related to ILUC is too uncertain to derive an official policy at this time.

On the other side of the divide, environmentalists supported LePage’s efforts, saying that the EU Parliament’s negative vote will now destroy any chances of resetting policy before irreparable damage is done. They also accuse certain EU officials of pandering to vested interests and ignoring environmental and social concerns.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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