European Parliament Votes to Begin With-drawal from Conventional Biofuels

UFOP Welcomes Exclusion of Palm Oil

22nd January 2018. The European Parliament has established its position for the forthcoming trilogue procedure on recast of the Renewable Energies Directive. It envisages that the share of renewable energies in the transport sector should increase to at least 12 percent by 2030, with 10 percent provided by biofuels from waste and residues. This would afford scope for only a maximum 2 percent share of biofuels from cultivated biomass. The Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants, UFOP) views this as a generalised rebuff to future prospects for renewable resources. The exclusion of palm oil utilization from 2021 is however welcomed.

The proposed development of a strategy for renewable energies based almost exclusively on straw, waste oils and waste fats is also criticised by UFOP, which views this approach as the opposite of "setting a good example" for countries outside the EU. The envisaged exclusion of palm oil as a feedstock for biofuel production from 2021 is however welcomed. Nonetheless, it appears that German and European oilseed cultivation have fallen victim to the deplorable debate on palm oil, coupled with ineffective international environmental policy.

UFOP commends the European Parliament for seeking, in contrast to the European Commission and the Council, to increase the minimum share of renewable energies from 27 to 35 percent and for proposing that a 12 percent target for renewable energies in the transport sector, to be fulfilled by 2030. However, the European Parliament’s position on these points stands in contradiction to its stance on biofuels. The goals proposed cannot be attained without sustainable biofuels from cultivated biomass optimised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as UFOP underlines. Given the slow progress in launching alternative powertrains, not to mention the outstanding need to develop the requisite infrastructure, politicians seem to be relying on mere optimism due to blind faith in technology.

UFOP considers that waste and residues do not constitute an alternative. The economically available potential is significantly overestimated; there are almost no investors. The mandatory provisions envisaged would thus inevitably lead to penalty payments for the Member States. Consumers will be left to foot the bill for unattainable goals.

UFOP acknowledges that the European Parliament committees dealing with this matter have endeavoured to find a compromise that also takes due account of the dire situation on agricultural markets.  The EP Environment Committee’s initial demand for complete withdrawal of conventional biofuels as early as 2021 has been thwarted.  UFOP points out that compulsory set-aside formed the point of departure in developing EU biofuel policy in the 1990s. However, UFOP criticises the scant attention paid in the current debate to the lamentable state of crop markets in the European Union and surpluses on international markets.

UFOP underlines the detrimental impact of the European Parliament’s stance.  It is patently clear that products from cultivated biomass, not only in the energy sector but also for material use, will in future fall victim to the iLUC discussion when environmental organisations address the production levels required. At the same time, the European Parliament’s stance also sounds the death knell for statutory sustainability requirements, which are also mandatory for third countries on the basis of certification systems recognized by the European Commission. Continuing to develop sustainability criteria and documentation requirements, particularly for imports from third countries, as the European Court of Auditors demanded in its report to the European Commission, makes little sense if mandatory inclusion of biofuel is to be set at a mere 2 percent.