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PARIS (Reuters) - European biofuel producers said a proposal by Brussels to nearly halve the level of crop-based biofuel used in the European Union by 2030 was a U-turn in policy that would threaten jobs and boost animal feed and crude oil imports.
The European Commission proposed in a draft law reforming the EU energy market to cap crop-based or so-called first generation biofuels' share of fuels used in transport to 3.8 percent in 2030 from 7 percent in 2021.
"The biofuel sector feels betrayed by the Commission because of its complete disregard for the investments made in good faith on the basis of EU policy," Robert Wright, Secretary-General of European ethanol producers group ePURE, said in a statement.
ePure estimate 16 billion euros ($17 billion) has been invested in European biofuel production facilities since 2003 when the EU established its biofuels support policy.
The EU's policy was primarily aimed at cutting CO2 emissions in the transport sector and reliance on fossil fuels. However, criticism has risen since that biofuels caused indirect changes in land use as they are made from products such as sugar or grains that could otherwise be used for human consumption.
Producers of biodiesel, made mainly from rapeseed, said the EU proposal would cut production of rapeseed meal, a byproduct used as protein in animal feed, and worsen the EU's large protein deficit.
The exclusion of first generation biofuels would also likely mean a rise in fossil fuels in transport due to lack of availability of advanced biofuels, Raffaello Garofalo, Secretary General of the European Biodiesel Board said in a statement.
French biodiesel producers gathered in Esterifrance group called the proposal a "death sentence". The level of biofuel blending has been at 7 percent in France since 2013.
Environmentalists said the Commission's plan did not go far enough. "This proposal means our cars and trucks will be burning almost as much palm oil and other food-based biodiesel in 2030 as they do today," Jelena Simjanovic from Transport & Environment (T&E), said.
Overall biofuels accounted for 4.9 percent of market share in 2014, T&E said.
In its proposal, which still needs to be approved by member states and the European Parliament, the Commission does not distinguish between ethanol and biodiesel but says member states can make such a distinction themselves when implementing the rules.
Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Alexandra Hudson