/ 10 September 2008

EU panel votes to cut goal for biofuels from crops

A key panel of European Union lawmakers voted on Thursday to lower a target for using traditional biofuels produced from crops in road transport fuel as part of the EU’s plan to fight climate change.

The executive European Commission has proposed that 10% of all road transport fuel come from renewable sources by 2020, without specifying how much of that should be biofuels, renewable electricity or hydrogen.

The target has been attacked by environmentalists, who say biofuels produced from grains and oil seeds contribute to rising food prices and deforestation.

The European Parliament’s influential industry committee endorsed the overall 10% target but voted that at least 40% of it be achieved with electricity or hydrogen from renewable sources, or second-generation biofuels from waste.

That would leave just 6% coming from traditional biofuels made from grains and other food stocks, and could curb the growth of a market being closely watched by biofuels exporters such as Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The committee’s decision will likely serve as Parliament’s position in negotiations with the 27 EU member states later this year or in early 2009 on the final shape of the legislation.

The panel approved a mid-term goal of 5% of road transport fuel from renewable sources by 2015, of which a fifth should be alternatives to biofuels from food crops.

It also approved a review by 2014 to assess how the 2020 target should be composed in light of technological advances, and whether it was attainable at all.

The committee vote has become more crucial than usual because France, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is aiming for a quick turnaround on environment legislation.

Paris wants to go to international climate talks in Poznan, Poland in December with proof that it is serious about battling climate change and has passed laws to do so.

The panel also endorsed the EU’s overall target of getting 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2020, such as wind, waves, tidal currents and the sun. – Reuters