21 January 2008 10:58 [Source: ICIS news]
PARIS (ICIS news)--EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on Monday strongly criticised British calls for a moratorium on the development of biofuels because of their uncertain environmental impact.?xml:namespace>
The commissioner was responding to a just released report by the environmental audit committee of the UK parliament which claimed the EU's current biofuels policy needed to be rethought because the environmental damage it caused far outweighed the benefits it brought in reducing greenhouse gases.
“On the contrary,” said Piebalgs. “It is delivering significant greenhouse gas reductions compared with its alternative, oil.”
"Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport but at present most biofuels have a detrimental impact on the environment overall," said Tim Yeo, chairman of parliament’s environmental audit committee.
Piebalgs said that the European Commission (EC) was promoting the greater use of sustainably produced biofuels “because this is the most immediately feasible way of significantly slowing the worrying growth of greenhouse gas emissions from transport”.
“This is of critical importance in a context where rising transport emissions are wiping out the hard-earned reductions of greenhouse gases achieved in other sectors,” he added.
The Latvian commissioner added that the British report also “fails to mention that, until other technologies such as hydrogen became competitive, the only alternative to biofuels is oil”.
But he stressed that the EC shared the concerns of UK members of parliament when it came to ensuring the sustainable production of biofuel crops.
“Sustainability has to be guaranteed by robust sustainability standards and mechanisms to prevent damaging land use change,” he said.
“This is precisely why the new directive for the promotion of renewable energy sources [due on 23 January] will call for the promotion of only sustainable biofuels ie those that can ensure a substantial CO2 [carbon dioxide] saving compared to the oil that would be consumed instead,” he added.
Piebalgs conceded biofuels were currently traded with no such EU standards or sustainable schemes but said he hoped the EC’s proposed scheme would “be a first step in catalysing the development of international sustainability standards for agricultural production in general”.
Although they are not officially published until Wednesday, the new proposals on the use of biofuels to target climate change have already led to significant internal divisions.
An internal report leaked to the press last week suggested there was little evidence that biofuels could help ?xml:namespace>
Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels
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