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Policies concerning biofuels in the EU is a controversial topic, but this week members of the European parliament (MEPs) are preparing to tackle the subject and clear any doubts surrounding the future of the sector.
Currently the EU has a set target of gaining 10% of its transport fuel from green sources by 2020, however questions are being asked over whether the biofuels contributing to the achievement of this target are really leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions, or whether the drive to achieve the target is actually detrimental to the environment.
MEPs will vote on introducing limits to the amount of biofuels produced from crops that can be used to help towards the 10% target, and whether emissions produced whilst clearing areas such as rainforests, wetlands, and grasslands, known as indirect land use change (ILUC), should be taken into account when determining the emissions produced from using biofuels.
If the MEPs vote to include ILUC emissions in the biofuel calculations, most forms of biodiesel could become obsolete in terms of the EUs 10% target, as they will create higher emissions than the fossil fuels they are intended to replace. Some within the industry argue that, due to that fact that biodiesel accounts for about 75% of EU biofuels, using ILUC emission figures would make attaining the 10% target virtually impossible. They claim that by introducing overly strict standards the industry could be heavily damaged, risking the jobs of 70,000 people now employed in biofuels throughout the EU, and the €20 billion a year that the industry contributes to the EU Growth Domestic Product.
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There are even some environmental groups that have asked the EU to completely abandon the 10% target, complaining that it could only be achieved by importing huge amounts of biofuels from outside of the region, and that it is wrong for the EU to offer subsidies of €6 billion a year to an industry that may produce higher carbon emissions.
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) has suggested that biofuels should not be allowed to count for more than 5.5 percent of the 2020 target, and that the ILUC calculations should be immediately included in order to prevent the production of unsustainable biofuels.
The Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) has asked that biofuels account for no more than 6.5 percent, with the ILUC calculations coming into effect in 2016. They also want a target of two percent to be supplied by advanced biofuels that do not compete for crop land, hoping that this will encourage investment and expansion in this sector.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com