The European Parliament now gets to battle over the commission’s proposals.
The European Commission has proposed a cap for the use of traditional biofuels and a quadorouple accounting for second generation biofuels creating the consequence of less than expected biofuels than earlier plans.The argument is even though unclear there is a risk for use of food resources for biofuels supported by EU government and a stronger promotion for biofuels produced from cellulose. Probably the winner from this will be the fossil fuel industry which receives a protected market.
On 20 June, the European commission energy committee voted to push the cap on food-crop fuels up slightly, to 6.5%. It also removed the stipulation that fuel suppliers report emissions using land-use change figures. Instead, the committee proposed gradually increasing mandates for use of advanced biofuels not made from food crops.
“The science of ILUC is not robust enough for policy,” argues Clare Wenner, head of renewable transport policy at the UK Renewable Energy Association in London. But Europe’s Joint Research Centre in Brussels says that the models used to calculate the land-use numbers are no less certain than the accepted science on the direct emissions of biofuels — and urges that they be included. The environment committee will vote on its preferred policy on 10 July: its lead negotiator on this issue, Corinne LePage, agrees with the Joint Research Centre and is pushing to incorporate land-use change numbers to distinguish between better and worse food-crop biofuels. But she may not get her way.
The battle does not end there: the main parliament will vote on the issue in September, based largely on what the environment and energy committees recommend.
Then Europe’s energy ministers will have to reach a compromise on the legislation. Some countries — such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark — want land-use factors to be included, whereas others, including central and eastern European countries with strong biofuel lobbies, do not.
Although this month’s vote will lay out the main lines of argument, it is conceivable that nothing will be agreed until 2014 — when European Parliament elections in May could set negotiations back to square one. “It’s head-bangingly complicated,” says Wenner.