* Biodiesel and bioethanol should get different treatment
* Energy Commissioner says "we're flexible" on level of cap
* Irish presidency to deliver progress report in June
* Environmental groups fear dilution of proposals
By Barbara Lewis and Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, Feb 22 Limits must be imposed on the
use of biofuels made from food crops, leading EU member states
France and Britain said on Friday, while questioning the detail
of a Commission proposal for a 5 percent cap.
Concern that some biofuels create more problems than they
solve led to a major policy shift in September when the EU
executive announced plans to limit the use of crop-based
biodiesel and bioethanol to 5 percent of total transport fuel
Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger on Friday said the
Commission's 5 percent proposal had taken into account
investments already made, but was not a definitive level.
He told a meeting of EU energy ministers a slightly higher
level of say 6 or 7 percent, as well as looking at biodiesel and
bioethanol separately, "might be more in line with the market".
"We are willing to be flexible," he said.
The reason some first-generation biofuels are considered
problematic is that they increase total demand for crops and
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
risk of stoking food price inflation and land grabs.
"To me it seems a terrible waste of money and food to
promote biofuels which are more expensive than fossil fuel, and
which do not create significant greenhouse gas savings and in
some cases seem to have even higher emissions than fossil
fuels," said Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Buildings
He called for changes to the Commission plan, including
tougher controls on biofuels with the highest ILUC emissions.
The 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
Ed Davey, British energy and environment minister, said the
Commission approach could increase costs, while jeopardising EU
goals to cut climate emissions.
BIODIESEL UNDER FIRE
The aim of a goal to get 10 percent of transport fuel from
renewable sources - chiefly biofuels - is to meet a target to
cut EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 versus
1990 levels, while increasing the share of renewables in the
energy mix to 20 percent.
"Clearly some of the ways that biofuels have been damaging
the environment and undermining action on climate change need to
be addressed," Davey said.
However, the Commission proposal as it stands is too much of
a "one-size-fits-all proposal", he said, calling for more
research and analysis.
Biodiesel made from rapeseed or palm oil has a greater ILUC
impact than bioethanol from sugar or wheat, scientific studies
for the Commission showed, and Sweden said this should be
reflected by capping biodiesel use alone.
France announced "a pause" in the production of first
generation biofuels that compete with food crops on Sept. 12,
two days after Reuters reported on a Commission draft of the
proposal to set a limit.
"We are in favour of a ceiling for biofuels which compete
with food, even though there is still some discussion about the
level of the ceiling," Energy and Ecology Minister Delphine
Batho said during Friday's debate.
The proposal will be debated further at a meeting of
environment ministers next month and then at ministerial talks
in June, at which Ireland, holder of the EU presidency, is
expected to deliver a progress report.
Environmental groups have campaigned forcefully against
biofuels and on Friday said they were worried an already weak
proposal was being diluted further.
From the European Environmental Bureau, Faustine Defossez
described as "shocking" Oettinger's "openness to weaken his own
proposal by increasing the ceiling on first generation
(Editing by Andrew Roche)