UFOP chairman Vogel welcomes the European Parliament's decision on EU biofuel policy
However, UFOP criticises the fact that there is no solid long-term strategy
Berlin, 6th May 2015. The chairman of the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants e.V. (UFOP), Wolfgang Vogel, welcomes the reform of the EU biofuel policy passed with an overwhelming majority by the European Parliament. Vogel is relieved that an appropriate compromise has been found for the intensively discussed cap for biofuels made from cultivated biomass. On the one hand, fixing the cap at 7 percent was supported but, on the other hand, criticism was taken into account in the Council discussion as, with the delegation of authority to member states, lower caps may be set nationally.
Vogel however criticises the fact that, with this decision, a long-term European biofuel policy that investors can rely on has once again failed to materialise, even though UFOP has called for this repeatedly. Without a mixture of biofuels from various biomass sources, progress will not be made in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Here it is important to safeguard the status quo whilst at the same time further developing innovations. Encouraging the agricultural industry to only produce straw after 2020 for biofuel production will be a hard task. The UFOP chairman is relieved that the Parliament rejected a national binding quota for biofuels made from waste materials. With this, EU politicians have acknowledged that there is a considerable need for further research for the production of these so-called "advanced" biofuels. Furthermore, Vogel confirmed UFOP's view that these biofuels are linked to an underlying contradictory assumption that straw can be produced on the fields without greenhouse gas emissions, that greenhouse gas balances are better per se and that, above all, it does not cost anything.
UFOP's chairman greatly welcomed the decision to limit the introduction of controversial iLUC factors to reporting, which was proposed by the Commission and also supported by the Council. With this, the Parliament also recognises that, as before, the scientific basis for the evaluation of cause-and-effect relationships between the cultivation of raw materials and biofuel usage is still insufficient. Justifying the introduction of "greenhouse gas penalty factors" on the basis of models that have not been scientifically proven is not sustainable. Politicians must ask themselves how politically-desired, taxpayer-funded extensification programmes such as "greening" or the extension of ecological agriculture should be evaluated in terms of indirect land usage changes or the food versus fuel debate.
For this reason, Vogel emphasised that, in the context of the future internationalisation of biomass strategies and the evaluation of biomass potentials, greater objectivity must finally be brought into the debate. If crops such as rapeseed, cereals and sugar beet are used for biofuel production, this will save on considerable imports of protein animal feed. Furthermore, whether these harvests will ultimately be processed into biofuels depends on the market situation. In this context, Vogel points to the media-driven discussions inappropriately led by certain non-government organisations on the use of food commodities for biofuel production. The food or fuel discussion has truly been brought to a head and the actual relationships on the agricultural market and the combination of biofuel production and protein animal feed production have been practically dismissed. Vogel however stressed that the scientific review of the possible effects of indirect land usage change are legitimate for the purposes of policy advice. The time remaining until 2020 must be used to work out a development strategy for all biofuel generations in a climate and energy package for 2030, as has been called for by the EU Parliament and Council.
The current agreements may indeed be primarily geared towards the so-called "advanced" biofuels. However, the fact that biofuel development is ultimately based on a first generation which ensures the preservation of the status quo should not be overlooked. Only under these conditions can certification systems, the quality of certification requirements and their implementation in the EU, as well as in third countries be further developed and improved. This is the global strategic approach to improve forest conservation and social standards primarily in third countries. If funding for first-generation biofuels should run out after 2020, the "leverage" for market entry into the EU will be lost. The result could be a deflection of the effects in other import countries. In this respect, this development in terms of a "learning strategy" on the basis of increased involvement of companies and associations in the biofuel economy must be pressed ahead with. The chairman stressed that UFOP will be happy to take part in this discussion.