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Biofuels 'Should Not Compete with Food'

12 July 2013

EU - Fuel from food crops have been pitched as a way to reduce carbon emissions from transport, however questions have been raised about how green these biofuels really are.

The EU has supported them for the last 10 years, but last year the Commission proposed to limit the amount of food-based biofuels. Corinne Lepage, a French member of the ALDE group in charge of steering the fuel quality and renewable energy directives through EP, talks about the challenges posed by biofuels.

According to Ms Lepage,the promotion of the first generation of biofuels from food crops such as rapeseed and palm oil affected developing countries by pushing up food prices. In addition land needed to be converted for biofuels production, leading to the destruction of forests and wetlands. As a result these biofuels actually generated more CO2 than they saved.

“The cap on first generation biofuels is needed, but not in an indiscriminate way as the Commission proposed,” Ms Lepage said. She urged to distinguish between better and worse–performing food–based biofuels by including emissions related to the change of land use in the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions savings attributed to biofuels.

This would stimulate the production of biofuels such as ethanol that do provide substantial benefits for the climate. She reminded that Parliament had already called in 2008 for these factors to be included in the calculation.

“Ignoring this problem risks undermining the EU’s credibility in the fight against climate change and legitimacy of financial support [of about €10 billion per year from EU member states’ budgets] to the industry,” she said.

Ms Lepage said the current insistence on austerity might make it difficult to justify high subsidies until 2020, but added: “The existing investments should be protected and the industry should have several years to continue producing first generation biofuels to recoup investments and prepare for the swtich to advanced biofuels.” These advanced biofuels could come from non–food sources, such as waste or residue feedstock.

TheCropSite News Desk

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