Europe sets up sustainable biofuel rules

Ok, this is a very crazy day as our company is moving to another floor in our building for the 5th time in 5 years. I have not yet gone through all my emails for the past 4 days so for those who are inquiring about the incoming BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference in late June, please bear with me and I will be able to get back to you guys this weekend.

And before I end my blogging hours today, here is an update about Europe’s plan to certify imported biofuels.

The European Commission (EC) announced yesterday that it will set up sustainability certification schemes for all types of biofuels that will come into Europe to make sure that these biofuels must deliver substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and should not come from forests, wetlands and nature protection areas.

This is driven of course from recent NGO reports claiming that increase use of biofuel feedstock such as palm oil and soybean oil are destroying forests and wetlands particularly in Indonesia and the Amazon rainforest.

The commission said the certification schemes would require independent auditors to check the whole production chain, from the farmer and the mill, via the trader, to the fuel supplier who delivers petrol (gasoline) or diesel to the filling station.

The rules for certification schemes were part of a set of guidelines explaining how the EU”s “Renewable Energy Directive,” coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented. Germany’s biofuels industry broadly welcomed the EU’s ruling, according to ICIS News*.

European enzyme companies Novozymes and Genencor also welcomed the plan. Novozymes said this will be an opportunity to kick start the deployment of advanced biofuels in Europe. Genencor stated that the guidelines will provide clear direction on how to build a more sustainable transport sector in the EU.

According to ICIS News, Greenpeace’s German affiliate, was not satisfied, stating that the Commission’s criteria did not go far enough to save rain forests in developing countries, and that the 35% greenhouse gas savings target through 2017 was too low.

In the guidelines, European Member States have to meet binding, national targets for renewable energy and that only those biofuels with high greenhouse gas savings count for the national targets, explaining also how this is calculated. Biofuels must deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels, rising to 50% in 2017 and to 60%, for biofuels from new plants, in 2018.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) also noted that the criteria for the guidelines are still not clear especially in defining highly biodiverse grasslands as well as a methodology for identifying degraded lands.

Non-profit group World Growth blasted the EU plan calling it a breach in global trade rules. World Growth is championing the industrial use of palm oil from developing countries.

“No matter how the Commission tries to dress up its policy on biofuels, Brussels is denying to European consumers effective, low cost, and — in the case of palm-based biofuel — environmentally sustainable products. The root cause is reversion by the European Union to its timeworn practice of using protectionist measures to block agricultural imports and hinder production in developing countries.” –World Growth.

[*ICIS News is subscription only]

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