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EU must clean up biofuel use, say green groups

Europe could replace oil with renewable energy sources in transport, without using harmful biofuels, according to a new report by by Dutch research institute CE Delft.

Commissioned by environmental groups, the Sustainable Alternatives for Land-based Biofuels in the European Union report explores how a shift in EU policy could ensure that biofuels used in Europe offer a real environment advantage.

Land-based crops-such as the field of rapeseed-are still the focus of most EU biofuel use

The EU currently has a target to source 10 per cent of all European transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020. Most EU governments intend to meet this requirement through the use of biofuel sourced from agricultural crops, ignoring their wide environmental and social impact including the displacement of food production to new land and resulting carbon emissions.

According to a Commission study, most biofuels currently marketed in Europe offer no or limited carbon emission savings compared to conventional fuels when emissions from this indirect land use change (ILUC) are taken into account.

The CE Delft report, commissioned by Greenpeace, BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau and Transport and Environment, shows what a real shift in policy would look like, instead of following a compromise offered by the Commission in October, designed to ensure that biofuels used in the EU meet sustainability criteria.

Waste

The Commission’s proposal, if adopted, would mean that at least half of the 10 per cent fuel transport target would still be met using destructive biofuels in 2020 and their overall consumption would be allowed to grow.

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sebastien Risso said: “This report shows just how wrongheaded current EU policy is and how transport can become cleaner without using harmful biofuels. The easiest and most secure way to minimise the climate impacts of road and rail transport is to reduce energy use and accelerate the electrification of our transport system.”

Waste products such as these wood chippings-could help meet EU biofuel targets The environmental groups urge the European Parliament and EU governments to focus on the solutions offered in the report’s alternative scenario to put EU green transport fuels policy back on track.

This alternative vision for the transport sector in 2020 would cut CO2 by 205 million tonnes, compared to just over 60 million tonnes under the recent proposal from the European Commission.

It envisages an EU where biofuels used in transport include biomethane sourced from agricultural waste and residues and biodiesel sourced from waste fats. The report also suggests that the increase use of electricity in road and rail transport to over 1 per cent (152 petajoules) of overall demand by 2020, could play a significant part in reducing transport emissions.

The Commission proposal will be discussed by EU ministers at the energy and environment Councils in February and March and by the European Parliament in the coming months.

CE Delft’s report can be accessed here.

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Faye Sunderland

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