EU considers lowering biofuels targets

By Kris Bevill | July 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted July 11, 2008 at 10:29 a.m. CST

The European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety issued a recommendation on July 7 that the European Union use caution while developing its renewable fuels policies and consider lowering its target for future use.

"The EU is at a crossroad concerning the future of energy," the committee said, adding that while bioenergy has many benefits it also creates a number of concerns, including deforestation, loss of biodiversity, depletion of soil nutrients, and excessive use of water.

The committee recommended that alternatives to biomass-based fuels continued to be researched but made no predictions as to what alternative holds greater promise than bioenergy. "While alternatives like hydrogen, electricity and hybrids, etc. are promising, nobody can tell today which of the technologies at play will present the most effective response to the energy and climate challenge," the statement said. "All options should be kept open."

The committee questioned the EU's goal of requiring 10 percent of its fuel to be derived from renewable sources by 2020. "Because of all the unknowns - both with regard to technology developments but also to land use changes - there is a compelling argument for caution and a step-by-step approach," the committee said. "The proposed 10 percent binding target appears too optimistic. The objective should not be to reach the target at all costs, rather to implement policies which result in a significant benefit for the climate." The committee recommended the target goal be lowered from 10 percent to 8 percent.

The committee also recommended that the EU should consider importing its renewable fuels from tropical countries such as Brazil. The committee said that imports from tropical areas, including Africa and Latin America, should be a favored alternative for the EU because those areas of the world can produce more feedstock at less cost.

French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently took on the rotating role of EU president, a position he will hold for the next six months. France has long been a supporter of nuclear power and currently derives the majority of its electricity from nuclear power plants.