EU countries could increase their production of biofuels with a minimum impact on the environment, Utrecht University scientists concluded in a study published on Tuesday (13 January). ILUC has been a major concern for the environmental campaigners, and generated heated debates among policymakers about how to increase the production of renewables without affecting the use of land. But scientists from University of Utrecht found that ILUC could be prevented if under-utilised land is exploited for the extra production of biofuels. “That way, crops won’t have to be relocated and there’ll be no need to convert nature areas into additional agricultural land,” said Birka Wicke, a Utrecht University scientist.
These are still uncertain times for the European ethanol industry. Discussions in the EU are well underway to revise the current EU biofuels policy, which expires in 2020, and the EU has not indicated what type of biofuel rules, if any, will exist after 2020. This policy uncertainty is the biggest challenge facing European ethanol producers. The current framework, introduced in 2009, heavily influences and governs the ethanol market in Europe. In 2012, just three years after EU policy support was confirmed for biofuels, however, the European Commission introduced a major U-turn by proposing to cap the use of conventional biofuels at current consumption levels.
EU policy must help to realise the potential of European biorefineries, says Norica Nicolai MEP. Biorefineries and renewable ethanol have never been more important to Europe’s future. Renewable ethanol is the clearest example of Europe’s emerging bio-based economy and has the potential to contribute significantly to solving some of Europe's biggest challenges now and in the future. But our high-level policy conference, 'European biorefineries: realising the potential of the bio-based economy', which took place in the European parliament last week, organised by ePURE and Copa-Cogeca, was dominated by one over-riding conclusion; it's time for Europe to turn the potential of biorefineries into reality.
Europe should be pushing for the rapid expansion of its network of biorefineries, to produce European food, fuel and feed, as well as a range of other high-value products that replace fossil fuels. There are many challenges facing new Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Managing one third of the EU’s budget; TTIP negotiations; dealing with the fall-out from the Ukraine crisis to name but a few. But the Commissioner also has a historic opportunity: to help drive the creation of a new biobased agricultural economy, built around European biorefineries, writes Robert Wright, Secretary General of the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePure).