EU backs away from biofuel goal


European Union energy chiefs considered an accord with Brazil over biofuels on Saturday at the end of a three day meeting in Paris during which they backed away from the EU’s controversial biofuels target.

Though no concrete changes were made to proposed biofuel legislation, ministers said the EU had failed to properly communicate plans to get 10% road transport fuels from renewable sources, such as biofuels, by 2020. French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said many people had misinterpreted the target to mean 10% from biofuels alone. He said the EU had to make clear it could also include electric vehicles recharged using green electricity or powered by hydrogen -- nascent technologies that while virtually non-existent today could play a vital role by 2020.

18 months ago, biofuels seemed like a wonderful idea, but their value was no longer so clear, he added. By distancing themselves from biofuels, ministers hope to diffuse growing criticism the target is contributing to deforestation and helping force up food prices -- because more agri-produce is being used for fuel instead of for food. “We have to decide if the quota can be kept,” the German state secretary Jochen Homann told reporters. “It might be changed.” France and Italy have also questioned the target in recent weeks and Britain is looking at its own goals based upon the EU targets.

Borloo said there had been broad support for a suggestion by EU lawmaker Claude Turmes that the EU should strike a bilateral agreement with Brazil over biofuels imported from there. Turmes, who is leading renewable energy legislation through the European Parliament, is pushing for biofuels proposals to be revised to prevent harmful side effects to forests and biodiversity.


“My analysis shows the only country where we can sustainably import substantial quantities of agri-fuels to the EU at the moment is Brazil,” Turmes told Reuters. “Such an agreement would be a test case, with tough criteria both on sustainability and social issues,” he added. “At the same time, Brazil would have to show us it can halt deforestation.” Turmes revealed to Reuters on Friday he had broad parliamentary backing to propose changing the EU’s target for biofuels so that 4% of road transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2015. One-fifth of those renewable fuels would have to be either second generation biofuels or electric vehicles, and there would be a major review in 2015 to decide whether to move towards an 8 to 10% target in 2020, he added.

In addition, a draft European Environment Agency report leaked to Reuters showed the EU may get barely one-third of its target for biofuels in transport fuels from home-produced sources by 2020, requiring massive imports to meet the goal. France, which took over the EU’s rotating presidency this week, has made climate change a top priority. (Reuters)

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