EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Drive for a catch-up on bio-fuels

  • January 20th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

fields-resize.jpgDeclaration of a target for bio-fuel production in the EU January Energy Package (10.1.07) aims to make up for a lackluster performance since promotion of energy crops began in 2003.

Europe is now subsidising production of crops for fuel at the level of EU 45 (A$72.48; Dcerates) per hectare, and has declared that by 2020 biofuels should account for at least 10% of transport fuel usage.

It is a binding goal; member states of the European Union will have to work out national plans to implement it.

Production for biomass takes in corn, grasses or suitable trees for use in biofuels production, e.g. for bioethanol or biodiesel.

Where will the land come from?

Towards achieving the goal, with half-a-million hectares now under energy crops, the maximum eligible area has been extended from 1.5-million to two minion hectares.

Farmers are permitted to use land not currently employed for agriculture for this purpose, or Set Aside land, i.e. where a premium is already paid to take land out of export production.

It has been foreshadowed that current cereals exports could be diverted to biomass production; and imports will be permitted, e.g. palm oil or ethanol from developing countries, to bring up the amounts required.

The European Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, told an audience at Copenhagen, 12.1.07, the expansion was one of Europe’s limited chances to cut dependence on imported fossil fuels.

“Biofuels are our only realistic hope of significantly reducing our dependence on oil in the transport sector over the next 15 years”, she said.

She said the policy of running a “regulated market” in biofuels, using a subsidy, started with non-binding goals in 2003, but these were not met.

“In 2005 the European Union produced nearly four million tones of biodiesel and bioethanol – which marked a large increase on the 2.4-million tones produced in 2004 …

“But we also have to recognise the less comfortable facts and one of these is that we have fallen behind the curve that we have set ourselves.

“Under the Biofuels Directive of 2003 we aimed to reach a share of two percent for biofuels in transport fuel usage in 2005.

“We only got half-way there, and on current projections, the target of 5.75 percent for 2010 is also at risk; we are likely to manage four percent at best.”

Reference: Mariann Fischer Boel, “Part of the Solution:Biofuels in the EU”, Conference at Carnegie Bank, Copenhagen, 12.1.07; EC SPEECH/07/12