European farmers, co-ops reject EU proposal to cap food-based biofuels at 5% in 2020; cap could threaten future viability of EU biofuel industry, destroy jobs, harm animal feed sector, says industry official

CORK, Ireland , July 29, 2013 () – European farmers and co-ops have rejected a move to impose a 5% limit on the use of biofuels made from arable crops in 2020.

The issue was also raised in the Dail by the former agriculture minister Brendan Smith who asked Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore if he supports the European Commission proposals.

Minister of State Joe Costello said in a written reply that he shares concerns that biofuel production, unless properly regulated, can have a negative impact on food production, and on food prices.

He explained that the EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 requires that 10% of transport fuels should come from renewable sources by 2020.

The directive also provided that the ongoing effects of its implementation be monitored by the European Commission.

Following a number of studies on the directive's effects, the Commission published a proposal last October to amend the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive.

The Commission included a proposal that foodcrop-based biofuels should, at most, comprise half of the 10% quota required to come from renewable energy sources. Mr Costello said this proposal, in conjunction with incentives for next-generation biofuels, signals the Commission's desire to move towards the use of advanced biofuels made from feedstocks which do not compete with the production of food.

"While member states agree that the issue must be addressed, it remains an extremely complex matter, and agreement has not yet been reached on the 5% cap. A progress report was submitted for the meetings of the Energy and Environment Councils in June 2013, and negotiations are continuing," he said.

Meanwhile, the umbrella body for European farmers and co-ops, Copa-Cogeca, has rejected the proposals.

It warned that a vote by the European Parliament's Environment Committee to impose the limit threatens the future of the EU biofuel industry as well as feed supplies for animals.

Copa-Cogeca also claimed the move runs counter to the European Union's 2020 Strategy for growth and employment and for climate and energy targets.

The umbrella body's secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said farmers and industry have invested huge amounts in the sector.

This was based on commitments made by the EU institutions to ensure that 10% of transport fuels come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

He said the vote by the Environment Committee was totally unacceptable and will lead to more fossil fuel consumption and more CO2 emissions in transports.

The proposal would bring an abrupt end to the development of the sector in many countries, threatening 220,000 jobs mostly in EU rural areas.

Mr Pesonen said the move also threatens animal feed supplies as biofuel production provides major benefits for the animal feed sector.

That's because the rapeseed grains can be used simultaneously for both biodiesel production and in animal feed. The majority of the grain stays in the feed sector.

Copa-Cogeca urged MEPs when they vote on the report at plenary session in September to ensure that the EU has a viable biofuel industry in the future. It said the case for using biofuels is strong. They are beneficial in terms of reducing oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions, stabilising commodities markets, boosting employment in rural areas and ensuring vital animal feed supplies.

"They have no impact on food prices compared to market fundamentals such as oil prices, exchange rates, weather extremes and ad-hoc trade policy restrictions," Copa-Cogeca added.
(c) 2013 Thomas Crosbie Media

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