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EU Biofuels U-turn ‘Ill-Conceived'

22 October 2012
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EU - The NFU is calling for joined-up policies that support the production of both food and renewable fuel, after European Commission proposals emerged which would change the key targets underpinning an emerging EU biofuels industry.

The Commission proposals are wide-ranging and include a five per cent cap on the use of ‘food crops’ (cereals, starch, sugar and oilseeds) as feedstocks to produce biofuels. The NFU believe this element, and a disproportionate increase in required greenhouse gas savings, from 35 per cent to 60 per cent, raise the most serious questions.

Combinable crops chairman Andrew Watts criticised ‘artificial constraints’ which betray a lack of consideration for agricultural production. He said the Commission had failed to take into account the important role of biofuels in increasing the security and sustainable development of both food and fuel.

Mr Watts said: “For those that argue this is about food or fuel I say this. The biofuel industry has been helping address the needs of both food and fuel through long-term market stability, flexibility of cropping patterns and bio-refining to produce quality, high-protein animal feed.

“These proposals will only exacerbate the situation of high prices for both food and fuel.

“Instead of removing certainty, we need polices that will send a signal to arable farmers to produce greater quantities of grain for all markets. Both food and fuel is the way forward, this U-turn is not.

“The proposals are ill-conceived and threaten to de-rail the UK’s renewable energy target of 15 per cent by 2020.

“Biofuels represent the only realistic means of reducing Europe’s reliance on imported fuel. They help to address GHG emissions in the transport sector, currently estimated at about a quarter of all EU GHG emissions, and they help to give farmers a profitable break crop for rotation which is good for the land.

“And increasing our reliance on imported protein for animal feed is a major step backwards. Europe already has a 20-million tonne feed deficit each year and our pig and poultry sectors have seen a 43 per cent increase in feed costs since 2007.”

NNFCC: EU 'likely to remain reliant on oil imports'

Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, Chief Executive of NNFCC said: "Despite safeguards to protect existing installations, these new proposals will limit the number of new biofuel facilities being built and Europe is likely to remain reliant on oil imports for the foreseeable future."

"However, it is encouraging to see the European Commission giving its support for greater advanced biofuel production but we need clear definitions, clear policies and clear trajectories to allow these emerging biofuels to enter the market," he added.

Under the proposals the amount of food crops being used in the production of biofuels will be capped at just 5 per cent of the final energy consumption of each European Union member state in 2020. Currently biofuels contribute around 4.5 per cent of the final energy consumption in the European Union, meaning there is little scope for further development in this area.

Member states are required to generate at least 10 per cent of their final energy consumption in transport from renewable sources in 2020. To make up the shortfall, the Commission announced there would be an "enhanced incentive scheme" to further promote sustainable and advanced biofuels from feedstocks that do not create an additional demand for land. These advanced biofuels, such as algae and straw, will count for double or even quadruple towards targets.

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