People are divided on biofuels: on the one hand they are a decent alternative to oil and coal, on the other their creation has resulted in the destruction of forests, damage to biodiversity and the replacement of food crops. To combat this, the European Commission has set up seven schemes to ensure that biofuels used in the EU are produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
The new rules mean that biofuel companies have to seek certification from one of these schemes or from a similar national scheme. Biofuels have long been part of the EU’s plan to cut CO2 emissions. Along with wind energy and other renewable fuels, biofuels also aim to break the continent’s dependency on foreign oil and Russian natural gas.
The new regulation means that within the EU, biofuels will now be created in a sustainable and regulated way. This means verification will be done with respect to where and how biofuels and produced, and to make sure they aren’t made from food crops or are grown on environmentally sensitive land. If they are found to do so, they will not qualify for the scheme.
Biofuel producers will also have to meet certain standards — as well as meeting the commission’s criteria, all biofuel will have to emit at least 35% less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.
In a statement, the EU Energy Commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, said that the side effects of biofuel production were “a real concern… particularly in the big producing countries, south-east Asia and in South America”.
With many people going hungry due to the displacement of food production for that of biofuel crops, Oettinger said that it was “an evolution which we cannot accept.”
The main aim of the EU is to have biofuel and other renewable sources account for 10% of transport fuel by 2020. While this target may seem low, bear in mind that many countries in the EU are surpassing their “20% by 2020″ target. Currently the continent imports about 26% of biodiesel and 31% of bioethanol from Brazil and the US.
Via BBC News