by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Sept 17, 2012
The European Commission rejected Monday charges that EU biofuel policy was contributing to soaring food prices but confirmed that it will trim its targets for their use.
Biofuels were once seen as a potential source of cheap alternative energy but critics say they are often based on food crops or use land that could and should be used for food production, helping drive prices higher.
"It is wrong to believe that we are pushing food-based biofuels," Gunther Oettinger and Connie Hedegaard, Commissioners for Energy and Climate Change, said in a statement.
"In our upcoming proposal ... we do exactly the contrary: We limit them to the current consumption level, that is 5.0 percent up to 2020," they said.
For post 2020, "our clear preference are biofuels produced from non-food feedstocks, like waste or agricultural residues such as straw.
"These new type of biofuels are not in competition with food, nor do they require additional land. We are pushing biofuels that help us cut substantial CO2 emissions, do not compete with food and are sustainable and green at the same time."
In 2009, the EU fixed a target for renewables to account for 20 percent of all the bloc's energy consumption and 10 percent in the transport sector, with biofuels to play a growing role.
The aim was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, seen as responsible for global warming.
A draft proposal earlier this month noted that some biofuel production was failing to deliver hoped-for reductions in greenhouse gases because changing land use to grow crops for energy had its own adverse impact on emissions.
Accordingly, it suggested that by 2020 biofuels should account for 5.0 percent of transport sector energy use, up only from the current 4.5 percent.
The balance of the 2020 transport target would be met by other renewables, with the draft saying the EU should "encourage a greater market penetration of advanced (low-Indirect Land Use Change) biofuels."
Monday's EU statement said the balance of the 10 percent target would be accounted for by "biofuels produced from waste and residues."
The Oxfam charity attacked Monday's EU statement as failing to address the core problems in the bloc's biofuel policy.
"At a time of high and volatile food prices it is disappointing that EU ministers have not publicly questioned Europe's biofuels policy, which is undermining poor communities' right to food and land," said Natalia Alonso the head of Oxfam's EU office.
"We cannot continue to burn food in our petrol tanks while poor families go hungry. Biofuels mandates must be dropped now and taken off the table for the future."
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