European Commission recognises value of EU biofuels – time has come to justify policy position, or correct it

Posted on

The European Commission recently published its Renewable Energy Progress Report[1] in which it highlights the positive contribution of domestically sourced biofuels in reducing GHG emissions.

The Commission assessment clearly asserts the sustainability of biofuels produced from EU feedstock, invalidating its concerns relating to land use or food security and demonstrating them to be wholly unfounded in the context of EU climate action. By whatever means of analysis applied, it is unequivocally evident that EU biofuels come with effectively no risk of adverse land use change, i.e. they are effectively zero-ILUC.

Quoting from the Report:

“In recent years, no correlation has been observed between food prices and biofuel demand.”” Most Member States did not observe any impacts on prices due to increased bioenergy demand within their countries.”

“Several Member States point out that all agricultural production is regulated with respect to environmental impacts and therefore consider that no more impacts should be expected from biofuel crop production than from other crop production.”

It couldn’t be clearer: earlier predictions of Commission policy makers for EU sourced biofuels in 2020, pointing to higher food prices or adverse land and environmental impacts, were plainly incorrect and should be revised.

These predictions had no factual basis, yet they have served very well the interests of the still growing fossil fuel industry, the source of all GHG emissions in the transport sector; and the interests of imported biofuels, whose linkage to deforestation is not adequately checked.

The Commission goes further in the Report in pointing out the benefits of EU sourced biofuels:

“It is estimated that the biofuels industry employed 208,000 people in 2018, being the third largest renewable energy job creator after wind energy and solid biomass (314,000 and 387,000).”

“According to information reported by Member States, total emission savings from the use of renewables in transport in the EU amounted to 45.6 Mt CO2eq in 2018.””… given the overwhelming share of biofuels in the RES-T (89%), it is reasonable to assume that the emission savings result largely from the use of biofuels.”

Thus far the Commission recognises the importance of EU biofuels to the economy, and to reducing GHG emissions. Thus far we agree with their findings.

Unfortunately however, the Commission loses sight of these findings in the rest of the report and in recent communications on aviation biofuels, in the Taxonomy secondary regulations and the Green Deal: it persists with its intent to limit the contribution of conventional EU biofuels.

The negative impact of trying to minimize the use of EU biofuels is twofold: it makes it more difficult to achieve the targets of transport decarbonisation, as advanced biofuels are often more expensive and in shorter supply; and it increases deforestation, as it promotes imports of palm oil to produce biofuels, and of soybeans that would otherwise be replaced by the high protein by-products generated by EU biofuels.

At no time was there a scientific or evidential basis for the Commission policy to phase-out or cap EU crop biofuels and the positive performance of these renewables over the last decade has illustrated that the policy was wrong.

The Green Energy Platform and its peers across Europe will be key partners in the achievement of the Green Deal objectives.   To be successful that partnership must rest on a foundation of truth and a true understanding of the workings of renewable energy systems.

We call on the Commission to come forward now with scientific and evidential justification of its continued opposition to EU crop biofuels in the framing of the Green Deal policy programme, or to set about correcting its position.

Green Energy Platform is a group of companies, mostly family owned, that make biofuels – and other bioproducts – with materials sourced from European farms. We make biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas- in each case both conventional and advanced. We care about the climate. We care about Europe- its economy and its environment. We are proud of what we do. We have contributed to climate action and economic development over the past decade. We are transparent. We believe in accountability.