November 14, 2012
The FH-Brussels biofuel event (http://fleishman-hillard.eu/2012/11/eu-biofuels-in-tranport-an-uncertain-future/) on Tuesday gave a glimpse of the broader and impassioned debate you can expect in 2013 once the European Parliament and European Council formally sink their teeth into the European Commission’s recent biofuel/Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) proposal.
Here’s a laundry list of the views, complaints, observations and questions from the event, attended by many of the key stakeholder groupings in the debate — industry (Neste Oil, BP, eg), NGOs (WWF, eg), and, of course, the institutional side (DG Energy, eg). Chatham House rules applied, so apologies for not attributing who said what:
*The multiple counting element under the Commission’s 5% target for advanced biofuels (cellulosic, animal fat, eg) is “an accounting trick” but is needed to provide some sort of incentive to industry to produce more of this type of biofuel and less of the first-generation, or food-based, variety (soy, corn, wheat, palm oil-based, etc). (Depending on the feedstock, an advanced biofuel can count double or quadruple its energy density, making it easier to reach the 5% target; the reason for this is quite simply that too little advanced biofuel is produced today so there’s a need to stretch the amount that is produced by counting it multiple times.)
*Why has the Commission defined a list of feedstocks that can be multiple counted? This will lead to all sorts of unwanted indirect effects as the biofuel industry competes for feedstock with other industries, and cause new indirect effects. Better for the Commission to have defined a list of robust biofuel-related technologies, namely the advanced ones.
*ILUC modeling remains (indeed) very suspicious. It’s five years old, the results change by the day, and the results are, by nature, arbitrary because the modeling is strictly assumption dependent and not measureable. But, hey, the EU needs to take a stab at accounting for potential indirect effects caused by the biofuel mandate, so some kind of research-cover is required to do this.
*Commission’s proposal needs “social” criteria added to the mix. (a very unlikely item that the Council will touch for many reasons. How do you define “fair” standards on labour, wages, working conditions, etc, and apply to the rest of the world?)
*Waste and residues are generally a good thing in order to discourage consumption of food-based biofuels, but you still need sustainability criteria of some kind. Removing, for example, forest residues can lead to unwanted biodiversity problems.
*EU should be cautious about ripping the floor away from first generation biofuels. It is the biofuel industry that is driving positive sustainability changes to agricultural growing practices globally. In order for feedstock growers to compete in the EU biofuels market, they must meet some of the world’s most stringent sustainability standards under the RED and FQD.