Italy to Require Advanced Biofuels in Gasoline and Diesel

Italy today became the first member of the European Union to mandate the use of renewable fuel made from inedible crops.

The law requires that gasoline and diesel contain at least 1.2 percent advanced biofuel, starting in January 2018. By the turn of the decade that will increase to 1.6 percent and by 2022, a minimum of 2 percent biofuel must be blended.

First generation biofuel, made from edible plants such as corn, has been blamed for driving up food prices. The European Council in June proposed capping the amount such fuel can contribute toward its 2020 target of 10 percent renewable energy in transportation at 7 percent. It also proposed that member states set targets for advanced biofuels, made from crop waste and non-food crops such as switchgrass, at 0.5 percent of total transport-energy use.

“After years of dithering and stalemate on biofuels policy in Europe, it’s very encouraging that a large member state is ready to lead by example,” Sebastian Soederberg, vice president for biomass conversion at Novozymes A/S, said in an e-mailed statement.

The move should spark investors’ interest and may inspire the council and European Parliament to adopt an EU-wide mandate for advanced biofuels by 2020 and beyond, he said. Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based Novozymes develops enzymes for making advanced biofuels.

Nils Torvalds, a member of the European Parliament, said the decision may pave the way for other countries to follow suit. Until the commission and parliament “get their act together,” the only route forward is for individual member states to take the initiative, he said.

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