EU committee votes on RED, prompting response from ePURE, UNICA

By Holly Jessen | July 12, 2013

A recent vote by the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee prompted comment by ePURE, which represents the EU ethanol industry, and UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association.

On July 11, the committee voted 42 to 26 to adopt the report of Corinne Lepage, an elected member of the EU Parliament. It concerned the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and Fuel Quality Directive. The proposal will be voted on again during the plenary session in September, at which time ePURE said it hoped a workable compromise could be settled on.

The report called for a 5.5 percent cap on the use of first-generation biofuels, something ePURE called a concern for existing and future ethanol investments and job opportunities. The EU renewable energy sector has invested nearly $10.4 million in the last 8 years and has created more than 70,000 direct and indirect jobs. In France alone, the industry has provided revenue of nearly $4 million to the government.

“We fear with that with this curb, Europe risks throwing the baby out with the bath water,” says Rob Vierhout, ePURE’s secretary general. “With the right framework renewable ethanol made in Europe makes an important contribution to the transition to low carbon transport and responsible economic growth. This home-grown sustainable and renewable source of energy can benefit Europeans and the European economy whilst reducing transport emissions by up to 90 percent compared to fossil fuels.”

UNICA, on the other hand, welcomed part of the vote but also cautioned about a threat to World Trade Organization compliance. Specifically, the group said it welcomed the 2 percent sub-target for promoting the production and consumption of advanced biofuels for transport fuel as a good step in the right direction, even if there are still details that need to be worked out. In addition, UNICA said it was pleased that the committee raised the FQD requirement for the reduction of carbon intensity of biofuels by 9 percent by the end of 2025. Currently the requirement is for 6 percent by 2020. “UNICA welcomes European Union policymakers' diligence and efforts in pushing for the consumption of biofuels that have the highest environmental credentials and technical performance," said UNICA CEO, Elizabeth Farina.

On the other hand, the group was also disappointment with the 5.5 percent cap, which it called an “arbitrary cap on the use of all food-based biofuels.” Geraldine Kutas, head of international affairs at UNICA, said “Such a cap ignores important differences between conventional biofuels' environmental performance and is vulnerable to being de facto discriminatory and breaching World Trade Organization rules.”  

The group also said the so-called multiple counting mechanism was a disappointment. It’s an artificial tool for counting certain biofuel feedstocks and electricity used in transport as a mechanism to make it easier for the EU to comply with its RED target of 10 percent renewables used in transportation fuel. Ironically the method leads to more fossil fuel demand and ignores other sustainable pathways for meeting EU goals, the group’s press release said.