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EU seeks to increase use of biofuels

The European Union and Brazil met in Brussels Thursday to talk about the benefits of using more plant-based fuels, and how to minimize the environmental risks of doing so.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country is the leading producer of biofuel, and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates are among the leaders at the two-day meeting to discuss the global trade in biofuels. "Properly managed, biofuels have the potential to offer important benefits," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said prior to the meeting. Barroso said biofuels can help reinforce energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “They also provide an important opportunity for industrial development, innovation and employment promotion.”

In March, the EU adopted an ambitious energy policy package, which aimed to strengthen the partnerships with producers, transit countries and consumers. It set a mandatory target for the 27-nation bloc to raise biofuels market share to at least 10% by 2020. The target is part of a wider Renewable Energy Roadmap proposed by the European Commission in this January which aims to boost the the share of renewables in the EU's energy mix to 20% by 2020. The new EU policy envisages an immediate response to efforts to meet the target by encouraging the production and use of biofuels to replace petrol and diesel. The transport sector, which produces nearly one third of the greenhouse gas emissions in EU, for example, depends solely on oil.

Brazil produced nearly 13 million tons of bio-ethanol in 2005, followed by the United States which produced 11.8 million tons in the same year. The EU produced 3.9 million tons of biofuels in 2005, an increase of 60% over the previous year. EU production of bioethanol from cereals accounts for 0.73 million tons of the total and bio-diesel from rapeseed for 3.2 million tons, about 1% of EU petrol and diesel consumption. Globally, the production of bioethanol for fuel use was approximately 26.9 million tons in 2005, accounting for around 2% of petrol use worldwide. (