* Ten percent biofuel target still possible
* Signal that industry must advance to non-food fuels
* Campaigners say proposals 'half-baked'
(Adds biofuel industry reaction)
By Charlie Dunmore and Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Oct 17 New EU rules to limit how much
food can be made into biofuels are "not perfect" and make it
harder to achieve overall goals on switching to low carbon
energy, European Commissioners said on Wednesday.
But they insisted the proposals sent out the right signal to
the biofuel industry, which would have to move on to
new-generation fuels that do not compete with demand for food.
The Commission announced a major policy shift in September,
saying it planned to limit crop-based biofuels to 5 percent of
consumption, as part of a goal to draw 10 percent of transport
fuel from renewable sources, mainly biodiesel and bioethanol.
On Wednesday, it formally published the proposal, which
biofuel producers have said could devastate their business and
green campaigners say fails to address the problem.
"Our analysis in the Commission is that it's still possible
to achieve the 10 percent target, but if you were to ask me
whether this proposal will make it easier, I would answer 'no',"
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Reuters in an
Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger earlier
told a news conference that the proposal was "not perfect".
Science had moved on from when the Commission agreed the 10
percent biofuel target in 2008 and as knowledge increased,
further changes could be necessary, the Commissioners said.
The reason some first-generation biofuels are considered
problematic is that they can displace food production into new
areas, forcing forest clearance and draining of peatland. The
displacement is referred to as ILUC (indirect land-use change).
In some cases, first-generation biofuels can be worse for
the environment than fossil fuels. Another human cost is the
possibility of adding to food price inflation.
"Everybody accepted that the day would come when we would
have more knowledge about these ILUC factors and then they
should also be factored in somehow," Hedegaard said in her
interview with Reuters.
"I believe that we taking a very, very important step and
sending a very, very important signal."
Wednesday's proposal includes ILUC factors to measure the
indirect emissions of biofuels made from cereals, sugars and
oilseeds, but they carry no legal weight in a watering-down of
an earlier draft proposal.
Both Hedegaard and Oettinger said they were not closing down
biofuel plants overnight but giving the industry fair warning
that only second generation fuels made from waste or algae, for
instance, could merit subsidies in future.
"We create more incentives to research and development in
promoting the second generation," Oettinger told reporters.
The biodiesel industry was relieved the proposals had lost
some of their force.
"The ILUC factor, the way it had been envisaged initially
was sounding the immediate death knell for the sector,"
Jean-Philippe Puig, CEO of Sofiproteol, which owns the EU's
largest biodiesel producer Diester Industrie, told Reuters.
"I think we came back to a compromise that is not acceptable
but that does not directly and immediately threatens all jobs."
But for producers of bioethanol, which had expected to
increase their share of the biofuel market, the proposals could
lock in biodiesel's dominance.
"If you know the fuels market, we in Europe are hugely short
on diesel, and oil companies want to fill the gap with biodiesel
as much as possible," Rob Vierhout, secretary general of EU
bioethanol lobby ePURE, said.
"So there is a real chance that this 5 percent will be
filled with biodiesel only, which is good for my colleagues in
the biodiesel sector, but is bad for us."
Environmental campaign groups were extremely disappointed
years of debate on ILUC had produced what BirdLife Europe said
was a "half-baked" result and blamed lobbying from industry.
"The only thing farmers and the bio-industry achieved today
was to protect their past with no regard for tomorrow," BirdLife
Europe policy officer Trees Robijns said in a statement.
Campaign group Transport & Environment said the Commission
had missed the opportunity to get biofuel policy right.
"While the European Commission proposal limits today's bad
practices, it does not fundamentally steer future bioenergy in a
sustainable direction, because it still does not account for
ILUC emissions from biofuels," said Nusa Urbancic, T&E programme
manager for fuels.
Now the proposals have been published, they must be agreed
by EU governments and lawmakers in a process that can take up to
(Additional reporting by Sybille de la Hamaide in Paris;
Editing by Rex Merrifield and Anthony Barker)