Fact check: Biofuels as an indispensable component of security of supply
25.03.2022 – The Black Sea region is of great importance for the global supply of agricultural commodities such as wheat, maize, sunflower, rapeseed and soya. The war in Ukraine affects important agricultural markets; this is reflected in the rise in quotations and has an impact on all sectors of the agricultural and food industry: farms, agricultural trade, processors such as grain or oil mills, biofuel producers, manufacturers of compound feed, but also on consumers. In the case of oilseeds, the development in Ukraine hits a market that was already characterised by tight supplies before.
Against this background, it is important to explain the significance and impact effects of sustainable biofuels for food supply, energy security and climate protection:
Biofuels support food security
The production of sustainable biofuels from oilseeds and cereals, with their production of essential co-products for food and animal feed, is an integral element of the entire food chain, because biofuel production, measured in terms of raw material yield per hectare, predominantly supplies high-quality domestic protein animal feed. For every litre of bioethanol, 1.8 kilograms of highly digestible dried stillage (DDGS) are produced, and for every litre of biodiesel, 1.5 kilograms of highly digestible rapeseed meal. These by-products thus make a significant contribution to improving self-sufficiency in foodstuffs and use agricultural locations and raw material qualities that would not be directly usable for human nutrition.
Against the backdrop of current events, political decisions such as the farm-to-fork strategy or other measures aimed at reducing the available cultivation and production potential in the EU must be carefully examined with regard to their short- and medium-term effects on the supply situation with domestic agricultural raw materials.
Biofuels reduce dependence on energy imports
Together, the oilseed and grain sectors make an indispensable contribution both to the supply of food and feed and to the provision of climate-friendly biofuels. The current energy crisis is an urgent reminder that Germany's dependence on fossil gas and crude oil supplies must be drastically reduced. It is worth noting the contribution biofuels currently make to the security of energy supply. Bioethanol and biodiesel contributed 4.5 million tonnes of fuel to the transport sector in Germany in 2020, replacing imports of fossil fuels from often unstable regions of the world and/or autocratic countries.
Immediate climate protection in transport with biofuels
Biofuels are added to fossil fuels in Germany on the basis of the legally anchored greenhouse gas reduction quota in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport. Compared to fossil fuels, biofuels, which are subject to the strict, legally binding sustainability certification that begins in the field, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent and thus stand for the saving of over 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents annually.
Existing greenhouse gas reduction quota efficiently regulates the market
With regard to the fulfilment of the legal greenhouse gas reduction obligation, special attention must be paid to the efficiency effect of the legal regulations: The biofuel industry's demand for raw materials such as rapeseed oil automatically decreases if the mineral oil industry gives preference to biofuels made from raw materials with a higher greenhouse gas reduction efficiency. The same applies if the price of rapeseed oil, or the biofuel produced from it, reaches a corresponding price level. As a result, petroleum companies prefer to pay the penalty for not meeting the GHG reduction targets instead of using the more expensive biofuel to count towards the greenhouse gas reduction quota (GHG quota). In addition, the GHG Quota Act allows for other options besides the use of biofuels to meet the legal obligation, such as the crediting of electricity used in electric mobility, whose greenhouse gas reduction contribution is calculated from the emission value of the electricity mix. Limiting the use of sustainable biofuels would be counterproductive in terms of their contribution to energy supply and climate protection and would result in domestic production volumes being exported.
Many valuable by-products characterise the networked bioeconomy of biofuel production
Biofuel production makes the bioeconomy tangible: The basic chemicals glycerol and ethanol are no longer produced from fossil sources in Germany, but from sustainably certified biomass with considerable advantages in the CO2 balance. Lecithin from oilseed processing is used as a vegetable emulsifier for bread, baked goods and margarine, but is also used in medicine, cosmetics, food supplements and beverage products. Glycerol is widely used as a bio-based basic chemical in pharmaceutical, detergent, personal care and cosmetic applications.
Restrictions on the legal requirements for the production of biodiesel and bioethanol lead to an increase in imports of protein animal feeds and thus to an increase in land requirements in the exporting countries. In addition, without biofuels the main pillar for meeting the ambitious goals for the transport sector anchored in the Federal Climate Protection Act would be lost. These undesirable consequences must be set against the holistic contributions of sustainably certified biofuels to the security of energy supply and climate protection - the advantages of biofuels speak for themselves.
Further information can be found in the brochure "Biofuels Policy Information".
German broschure "Politikinformation Biokraftstoffe"