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Industry fears over European biofuel policy

New European Commission (EC) limits on food-based biofuel for transport, in a bid to boost waste-based fuel, have prompted concerns from the EfW industry.

The proposal is for a 5% cap on crop-based ‘first generation’ biofuel production for transport, which is half of the EU’s renewable energy target of 10% by 2020.

An EC statement said the new policy was in response to scientific studies which found: “Some biofuels may actually be adding as much to greenhouse gas emissions as the fossil fuels they replace”.

The EC said the policy was designed to stimulate the development of alternative, second generation biofuels from non-food feedstock, such as waste or straw, which emit “substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and do not directly interfere with global food production”.

European commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said: “We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable”.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) fears the commission’s proposals will hinder the growth of the biofuels market for both first and second generation biofuels.

REA head of transport Clare Wenner called the policy “deeply regrettable” and “not based in commercial reality”.

Wenner told MRW: “It’s a question of investor confidence. If there is no stable market for biofuels, with policies changing all the time, and no policy visibility beyond 2020, then it is likely to be impossible to find investment for second generation biofuels, which are more expensive and difficult than first-generation biofuels in terms of R&D and commercialisation.”

Wenner was unconvinced that market incentives for advanced biofuels, including that from waste, would reel investors in.

Charlotte Morton the chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) was also concerned. She told MRW: “It isn’t yet clear what effect the commission’s proposals will have, but they certainly risk damaging investor confidence in bioenergy, which is desperately needed to meet our climate change commitments.

“Governments at all levels need clear, consistent regulation to compare forms of bioenergy and ensure we make the best possible use of the land we have available. They also need to ensure that food and fuel are not in conflict - and technologies such as AD recycle nutrients, improve soil quality and support good farming practice - but in a way which takes account of all of the evidence.”

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