Commission consults on biofuel standards

New legislative proposals on renewable energy will include EU targets for biofuels, according to a consultation issued by the European Commission last week

In March, EU heads of state accepted Commission proposals for a binding target for biofuels to make up 10% of road fuels by energy content in each member state by 2020. The Commission also proposed the introduction of a sustainability scheme for biofuels.

The consultation paper asks how a biofuel sustainability system could be designed, and what action is needed to achieve the 10% target.

Biofuel producers will have to demonstrate that their products achieve greenhouse gas savings compared to petrol or diesel. If they fail to do so, their products will not count towards the target or receive financial support. However, the savings could be just 10% – far below the level called for by environmental groups.

Biofuels could not be grown on land if it would lead to the loss of “high carbon stocks” or “exceptional biodiversity”, it says.

As a first step to meeting the target, the Commission is amending fuel quality standards to allow ethanol and biodiesel to make up 10% of fuel supplies by volume. However, this “will not be enough” for the energy content target to be met, the consultation says.

It asks for views on whether high-blend ethanol and biodiesel products could help meet the target, or whether the Commission should promote other types of biofuels like biomethane. However, it admits that all these options require the development of specialised vehicles and distribution systems.

If none of these methods “can be relied on”, the share of ethanol that can be blended into ordinary petrol would have to be raised to 20%. A similar increase might be required for biodiesel.

This decision will have to be taken “soon”, says the Commission, so that car manufacturers can redesign engines in time.