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E.U. proposes limiting production of food-based biofuels

The European Commission is proposing to limit the conversion of non-agricultural land for biofuel production by limiting the use of food-based biofuels to 5 percent.

While biofuels are seen as viable alternative sources of energy, scientific studies have shown that they could also deliver adverse impacts, such as competition with food production, displacement of non-agricultural land and even carbon emissions – just like the fossil fuels they replace.

"For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels. We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food,” said Connie Hedegaard, European commissioner for climate action.

With the proposed limit, the commission aims to boost the development of alternative or second-generation biofuels from non-food feedstock, such as waste or straw. These discharge significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels and do not directly impede global food production, according to the European Commission.

“We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable,” Ms. Hedegaard said.

The 5 percent share from food-based biofuels will fill the 10 percent renewable energy target under the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive for the transport sector by 2020.

Along with the percentage cut, the commission is also working to raise the minimum greenhouse gas saving threshold for new biofuel installations to 60 percent. This is to perk up the efficiency of biofuel processes, and put off further investments in installations with low greenhouse gas performance.

In assessing emissions from biofuels, the commission suggests using indirect land use change factors. This includes biofuels’ impact in terms of driving the conversion of land, like forests and wetlands, to agricultural land. This is the first time such criteria will be used for biofuel production, the commission said.

“Biofuels, produced sustainably and under efficient processes, are a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels in the E.U.'s energy mix and for transport in particular. Only biofuels which satisfy a set of sustainability criteria qualify for public support on the European market,” the commission said. – EcoSeed Staff

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