* Deal fixes 7 percent limit for biofuels from food crops
* Includes 0.5 percent non-binding goal for advanced fuels
* EU ministers to vote on issue next month
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, May 28 EU diplomats on Wednesday
agreed to limit production of biofuels made from food crops in
response to widespread criticism that they stoke inflation and
do more environmental harm than good.
The compromise, agreed by diplomats in a closed-door
meeting, follows on from a stalemate late last year when
governments failed to agree on a proposed 5 percent cap, which
amounted to a policy U-turn.
Diplomats said Wednesday's compromise would set a 7 percent
limit on the use of food-based biofuels in transport fuel,
compared with an overall target to get 10 percent of such fuel
from renewable sources by 2020.
EU ministers are expected to endorse the decision at a
meeting in June and after that it will have to be considered by
the newly-elected European Parliament.
Initially, the European Union backed biofuels as a way to
tackle climate change, but research has since shown that making
fuel out of crops such as maize displaces other crops, forces
the clearing of valuable habitats and can inflate food prices.
The next generation of advanced biofuels, made from waste or
algae for example, does not raise the same problems, but it does
require more investment.
The compromise backed on Wednesday includes a 0.5 percent
non-binding target for next generation biofuels, which
environment campaigners say is nowhere near enough.
It could mean that the overall goal to get 10 percent of
transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020 is missed,
analysts say. Currently around 5 percent of EU transport fuel
comes from renewable sources.
Food-based biorefiners which have invested on the basis of
the original 10 percent say a lower target threatens jobs.
And those trying to develop advanced biofuels say the
progress they are making is under threat.
The debate has drawn together a group of companies, ranging
from British Airways to Denmark's Dong Energy
and Finland's UPM Biorefining, which
support advanced biofuels. They say the European Union will lose
technology to other parts of the world if it does not provide
"It is time for the EU to put its cards on the table: Do we
want to stay dependent on polluting fossil fuels or do we want
to harvest the potential of innovative biofuels technologies?"
the group, Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels, asked in an open
Epure, which represents bioethanol refiners, said in a
statement the compromise proposal lacked ambition and that
biofuel should make a major contribution to limiting EU
dependence on imported oil and gas - a concern highlighted by
the crisis over Russia's seizure of Crimea.
Environment and humanitarian campaign groups said a limit on
first generation food-based biofuels was a small step, but they
were still concerned about the amount of land required.
"Europe's thirst for biofuels is fuelling hunger, land grabs
and deforestation in the developing world," Marc Olivier Herman,
Oxfam's EU biofuels expert said.
He called on the new European Parliament to push for "an end
to the foolish use of food for fuels".
(Additional reporting by Ben Garside in London, editing by