EU biofuel players ask for more government transparency

15 March 2010 16:17  [Source: ICIS news]

AMSTERDAM (ICIS news)--European countries could stumble in their push for increased renewable fuel usage unless EU policy makers become more transparent in their decision-making process and set practical biofuel benchmarks, sources said on Monday.

The EU passed biofuel usage mandates last year that call for 10% of all transport fuel to be renewable fuel by December 2010.

Some attendees at the 2010 World Biofuels Market said they believed member countries may fall short unless the European Commission offers more concrete benchmarks on attaining the goal.

Joris van der Voet, project director for biofuels at the Netherlands environmental ministry, said with just more than half a year to go there were no clear indications of sustainability standards that would help countries judge which fuels would meet the usage mandate.

“Producers might think they apply to EU standards, but how to prove it?” van der Voet asked. The EU should “ask producers to give figures on production, feedstock, sustainability, etc,” he said.

Van der Voet called for an independent council to audit a fuel's sustainability, saying that the EU needed a "gold-standard".

Biofuel buyers and sellers who were hoping that the European Commission's energy and transport directorate-general Paul Hodson - scheduled to talk at the conference's policy issues session - would shed some light, were left disappointed.

Without prior announcement, Hodson spoke about two hours earlier than scheduled and then promptly left, leaving many conference attendees with no idea of what he said.

“He said he had to return to Brussels,” said one trade association member, asked to recount Hodson's talk. EC representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Refiners and blenders said they were also left wondering how best to meet the upcoming mandate. Paul de Moudt, general manager of alternative energy and fuel development strategy at Shell, said more guidance was needed on how the government would measure a fuel's sustainability.

One question de Moudt raised was whether biofuels producers could offset pollution emissions incurred from one step of the refining process with offsets in another.

“We understand that (sustainability) is an issue and that it's one people are studying and trying to quantify,” de Moudt said. “But will it be used as a penalty or an incentive?”

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By: Ben Lefebvre
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