Finding the right biofuel balance


The debate on biofuels in the European Union often confuses the bad with the good. Critics of using crop-based biofuels mostly focus on the negative effects of imported feedstock such as palm oil, including deforestation and land-grabs in Southeast Asia – without mentioning that European crop-based biofuels like ethanol have no such downsides.

At recent debate in the European Parliament, several speakers changed that focus, arguing in favour of limits on the use of imported palm oil in achieving EU renewable energy targets. The debate was hosted by two key MEPs on the subject of biofuels, Seán Kelly and Jo Leinen, who are involved in the ongoing negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and Commission on the Renewable Energy Directive. Speakers included several critics of palm oil use in biofuels and food products.

Kelly and Leinen both gave updates on the RED II talks, saying compromise would be difficult to find as many Member States in the Council were not willing to accept the European Parliament language restricting palm oil use. Leinen said MEPs were not seeking an outright “ban” on palm oil, only a limiting of its contribution to renewables targets. Kelly emphasised the importance of European crop-based biofuels and of ensuring investor certainty.

EU policies, Kelly said, “should not drive deforestation” but rather should “give incentives to sustainable biofuels produced by European farmers.” He added that the “food vs fuel” debate was “simplistic” and defended European crop-based biofuel production and its benefits for EU protein supply.


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