Biodiesel's presence in future EU policy revealed in leaked draft

By Ron Kotrba | November 22, 2016

A leaked draft of annexes from the European Commission’s revised Renewable Energy Directive shows that fuels produced from food or feed crops, such as sustainable biodiesel from rapeseed oil, will continue to serve a role—albeit a reduced one—in the post-2020 EU transportation fuel sector.

The draft, which Biodiesel Magazine obtained online from Politico, shows that biofuels from food and feed crops will remain capped at 7 percent through 2021, after which the cap is to be reduced by 0.3 percent a year through 2025, down to 5.8 percent inclusion, and by 0.4 percent a year from 2026-’30. In 2030, the maximum amount of liquid biofuels from food and feed crops will be relegated to 3.8 percent, according to the draft.

Over the past several years, the EU government has faced public pressure from antibiofuels groups whose influence is fueled by questionable models heavily weighted in indirect land use change theory and analyses suggesting greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels are worse than those from petroleum fuels.

Sources say EU policy is being influenced by studies such as that performed by IIASA research institute and energy and climate consultancy Ecofys using the Global Biosphere Management Model (Globiom), and subsequent analyses by organizations such as Transport & Environment.

Earlier this year, the European Biodiesel Board characterized Transport & Environment’s analysis and campaign as “surprisingly biased” and “antibiodiesel.”

“The Brussels-based communication group seem now decided to lobby against biodiesel and in favor of fossil fuels—that seems to be their solution for decarbonization,” EBB stated. “By ignoring the lack of credibility of the Globiom modeling, and calling for a 0 percent cap on first-generation biofuels after 2020, Transport & Environment is actually advocating for more fossil fuels in road transport. They do not provide a constructive solution for the decarbonization of transport, in particular for sectors like heavy-duty vehicles and aviation where electrification is not an option.”

One source told Biodiesel Magazine that “Transport & Environment’s manipulation of figures definitely has a terrible impact on public opinion.”

Experts point out these methods, models, analyses and findings being relied upon by the EU are in fact unreliable because A) they have not been peer-reviewed, and B) they lack transparency, just to name two reasons.

California Air Resources Board’s modeling and analysis of biodiesel, however, “has been the most lengthy and rigorous process in the world,” said Jessica Robinson, director of communications for the National Biodiesel Board. “More than seven years of expert review by stakeholders from all sectors have contributed to the ever-improving reputation of the CARB analysis,” which has ultimately demonstrated biodiesel is among the most sustainable and lowest-carbon liquid fuels available today.

Similar findings to CARB’s results have been replicated by Purdue University, Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. EPA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and independent contractors, some of whose findings demonstrate even lower ILUC emissions from biodiesel than CARB’s findings show, Robinson said. These findings have been upheld by independent expert review groups such as the ISO Sustainability Metrics Expert Workgroup and the Coordinating Research Council. In addition, Robinson added that these results have been acknowledged by nongovernmental organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Groups like Transport & Environment, which sought a complete phase-out of crop-based biofuels, are essentially characterizing the inclusion of biofuels such as rapeseed biodiesel in EU policy through 2030 as a defeat for them and a victory for the biodiesel and ethanol industries.

“Just four months after promising a phase-out of food-based biofuels, the European Commission proposes to still have them supply 3.8 percent of Europe’s transport energy in 2030,” said Jori Sihvonen, biofuels officer at Transport & Environment. “This is not a phase-out. It is business as usual…” 

 

 
 
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