Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Commission urges new drive to boost production of biofuels

The European Commission today adopted an ambitious EU Strategy for Biofuels, with a range of potential market-based, legislative and research measures to boost production of fuels from agricultural raw materials. The paper, which builds on the biomass action plan adopted in December 2005, sets out three main aims: to promote biofuels in both the EU and developing countries; to prepare for large-scale use of biofuels by improving their cost-competitiveness and increasing research into 'second generation' fuels; to support developing countries where biofuel production could stimulate sustainable economic growth. Increased use of biofuels will bring numerous benefits, by reducing Europe's dependence on fossil fuel imports, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing new outlets for farmers and opening up new economic possibilities in several developing countries.

"There has never been a better moment to push the case for biofuels," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "Crude oil prices remain high. We face stringent targets under the Kyoto Protocol. And the recent controversy over imports of Russian gas has underlined the importance of increasing Europe's energy self-sufficiency. Raw materials for biofuel production also provide a potential new outlet for Europe's farmers, who have been freed by CAP reform to become true entrepreneurs."

Development Commissioner Louis Michel highlighted the potential opportunities that biofuels production present for developing countries, notably those affected by the sugar reform. "Many developing countries are naturally well placed for the production of biofuel feedstocks, particularly those traditionally strong in sugar production. The expanding EU market for biofuels will provide them with new export possibilities. The EU will help them maximise this opportunity with support for knowledge transfer and development of their market potential."

The Strategy picks out seven key policy axes, pulling together the measures the Commission will take to promote the production and use of biofuels.

1) Stimulating demand for biofuels.

A report will be published in 2006 on a possible revision of the biofuels directive; Member States must be encouraged to favour biofuels (including second generation products), and consideration will be given to biofuel obligations; the Commission has brought forward a proposal to promote clean and efficient vehicles.

2) Capturing environmental benefits.

The Commission will examine how biofuels can best contribute to emission targets; work to ensure sustainability of biofuel feedstock cultivation; and look again at limits on biofuel content in petrol and diesel.

3) Developing production and distribution of biofuels.

The Commission will propose a specific group to consider biofuels opportunities in rural development programmes; and increase monitoring to ensure no discrimination against biofuels.

4) Extending supplies of feedstock.

The Commission is making sugar production for bioethanol eligible for CAP support schemes; it will assess possibilities to process cereal intervention stocks; finance an information campaign for farmers and forest owners; bring forward a forestry action plan; and look into the possibilities for using animal by-products and clean waste.

5) Enhancing trade opportunities.

The Commission will assess the possibility of putting forward a proposal for separate customs codes for biofuels; it will pursue a balanced approach in trade talks with ethanol-producing countries; and propose amendments to the "biodiesel standard".

6) Supporting developing countries.

The Commission will ensure that measures for ACP Sugar Protocol countries affected by the EU sugar reform can be used to support the development of bioethanol production; develop a coherent Biofuels Assistance Package for developing countries; and examine how best to assist national and regional biofuel platforms.

7) Research and development.

The Commission will continue to support the development of an industry-led 'Biofuel Technology Platform' which will make recommendations for research in this sector. Biofuels will have a high priority in the 7th Framework Programme, in particular the 'bio-refinery' concept - finding valuable uses for all parts of the plant – and second generation biofuels. Through research, production costs could be cut considerably beyond 2010. Through its Intelligent Energy Europe Programme, the Commission will support market introduction and the dissemination of proven technologies.


In the EU, transport is responsible for almost one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore essential to find ways of reducing emissions from transport.

Nearly all the energy used for transport comes from oil, for which the EU is heavily dependent on imports.

Processed from biomass - a renewable resource - biofuels is a direct substitute for fossil fuels in transport and can be readily integrated into fuel supply systems.

Support to the biofuel sector also offers new income possibilities in rural regions and contributes to the Lisbon Agenda by developing long-term replacements for fossil fuel.

In a number of developing countries, production of biofuels could stimulate economic and environmental benefits, create employment, reduce energy import bills and open up potential export markets. For example, bioethanol could be a feasible alternative for sugar producing countries affected by the recent EU sugar reform.

The EU must also continue to support research into second generation biofuels, such as ligno-cellulosic ethanol, Fischer-Tropsch biodiesel and bio-dimethyl ether (bio-DME).


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