Industry asks for biofuels policy U-turn

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Biofuels, European union

The food industry has called on the European Commission to
reconsider its biofuels policy, which currently sets a mandatory
target of 10 per cent biofuels for transport by 2020.

The Association of the Chocolate, Biscuit & Confectionery Industries of the EU (CAOBISCO), and the International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe (IMACE) raised its concerns after a report entitled "Biofuels in the European Context" was leaked. The unpublished report, by the EU's Joint Research Council, raised questions over the true benefit of biofuels on the environment. "We have long argued that imposing these mandatory targets is at present unsustainable. Now, the Commission's own scientific advisers have proven us right,"​ said David Zimmer, Secretary General of CAOBISCO. "It would be unacceptable if the Commission were to ignore the sound advice of its own scientists and plough ahead with a policy that will do more harm than good all round. We call on the Commission to reconsider its approach immediately." ​According to the two organisations, the report flagged up several criticisms of biofuels, bringing into question the success of implementing them in Europe for environmental benefits. Criticisms ​The leaked report apparently claims that biofuel targets may actually yield no greenhouse gas savings. It may in fact be more efficient to focus on other renewable energies, such as biomass for heat and power generation. ​It may also be the case that the biofuels policy would do little to improve security of energy supplies in Europe, and at high cost. The two food organisations claim the report states that the net welfare loss for European taxpayers between 2007 and 2020 would range between €33bn and €65bn. Finally, it says meeting the biofuel targets would cause significant price hikes for commodities used in food production. The food industry has already experienced massive price hikes for raw materials, which have been blamed on poor weather affecting stock and production, and high fuel costs - both biofuels and oil. Biofuels debate ​ The question of whether biofuels could bring more harm than good has often played on the lips of European ministers. For example, in September, they met for a round table debate on sustainable development in Paris to discuss whether propounding use of biofuels is justified given their impact on food prices, and whether first generation technologies are causing more environmental harm than good. However, there remains an expectation that current biofuels will lead to the more advanced, second generation technologies that will use marginal land and waste materials, such fears have not yet resulted in policy change. In November, it emerged that major food companies are contributing to increased carbon emissions through the destruction of Indonesia's peat swamp forests to produce palm oil to use as a greener alternative to conventional petrol and diesel. Despite concerns, it seems the European Commission is sticking by the policy. Reports say EU agriculture chief Mariann Fischer Boel told a food industries' conference that there would be no U-turn. Background ​ The biofuels policy was drawn up in March 2007 with the intent of achieving a 20 per cent reduction of Europe's CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. As well as increasing biofuels for transport, the Commission pledged to increase renewable energy used by 20 per cent. Inneke Herreman, Secretary General of IMACE said: "Our industry is clearly concerned that the proposed biofuels targets will destabilise agricultural commodity markets, causing food inflation globally and exacerbating food insecurity in some regions. It is now clear that there are no net environmental or socio-economic benefits to this policy either."

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