EU Must Cut ‘Damaging’ Transport-Biofuel Use, Lobbies Say

The European Union should modify its rules to ensure nations meet their greenhouse-gas reduction goals while using less “damaging” crop-based biofuels in transport, four environmental groups said.

The EU could cut carbon dioxide from transport energy use by 205 million tons in 2020 through measures including improved efficiency of vehicles, shifting to rail from road, and a cap on the use of unsustainable biofuels, according to a report by environmental research institute CE Delft. The study was commissioned and published today by lobbies Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and BirdLife Europe.

“This report shows just how wrongheaded current EU policy is and how transport can become cleaner without using harmful biofuels,” Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sebastien Risso said in an e-mailed statement. “The easiest and most secure way to minimize the climate impacts of road and rail transport is to reduce energy use and accelerate the electrification of our transport system.”

The strategy outlined in the report would allow the EU to cut emissions by more than the about 60 million tons of carbon dioxide projected under the bloc’s draft rules last year, according to the lobbies. It would let governments meet their targets without competition of crop-based biofuels with food and reduce incentives for damaging technologies, the green groups said.

Renewable Sources

The European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm in Brussels, proposed last year that first-generation biofuels made from crops such as sugar, starch or vegetable oils provide 5 percent of the EU target for transport fuel. The current EU requirement that at least 10 percent of energy for road and rail transport in 2020 come from renewable sources in all member nations risks causing side-effects that undermine the battle against global warming, environmental groups have said.

The draft legislation needs approval by EU national governments and the European Parliament to enter into force. Biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel are the main renewable energy for transport and offer the prospect of reducing the use of fossil fuels blamed for climate change.

Biofuels, mainly first-generation, accounted for about 4.7 percent of EU transport fuel consumption in 2010, according to the commission.

The four environmental lobbies urged governments and the Parliament to amend the commission’s proposal and focus on the solutions in the CE Delft report to reach their climate and energy policy goals. The EU should require immediate accounting of emissions linked to indirect land-use change, or ILUC, they said today.

“The proper accounting of the full carbon footprint of biofuels, including emissions from ILUC, is the first step towards more sustainable alternative fuels,” Transport & Environment fuels program manager Nusa Urbancic said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.