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Industry and NGOs come together on sustainable second generation biofuels for Europe

Published Wed, 2013.09.11 | By

Stephanie Searle

Last week, a coalition of European environmental NGOs and advanced biofuel companies issued a joint statement on their position on support for sustainable second generation biofuels ahead of today’s (11 September) Parliamentary vote on the European Commission’s iLUC proposal. The signatories are:

  • BioChemtex
  • BirdLife Europe
  • Dong Energy
  • European Climate Foundation
  • Institute for European Environmental Policy
  • UPM
  • LanzaTech
  • European Environmental Bureau
  • Novozymes
  • Transport and Environment

The statement calls for policy certainty on non-food feedstocks and advanced biofuel technologies like cellulosic fuels. This group points to an estimate that advanced biofuels from wastes and residues could in principle replace up to 13% of EU road transport fuel in 2020 and up to 16% in 2030, based on a study on EU waste and residue availability conducted by the ICCT (coming soon). The ICCT study found that 225 million tons per year of biomass from wastes and residues could be sustainably used in the EU at present, without significant impacts on soil quality, biodiversity, or other uses of these materials. This biomass, equivalent to about 37 million tons oil equivalent per year, could be used to produce advanced biofuels with high greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuels. About half of the availability is from crop residues, including wheat straw, corn stover, and rapeseed straw, with the remaining biomass coming from forestry harvesting residues like leaves and twigs, and unrecycled paper, wood, food and garden waste. The ICCT projected the total availability of waste and residue biomass to remain roughly constant from the present to 2030, indicating a lasting opportunity for sustainable biofuels from these sources. The joint statement calls for clear incentives for the use of these low-carbon energy sources, including “correct lifecycle accounting of emissions,” which would require the inclusion of iLUC factors under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). Agricultural expansion to accommodate the demand from food-based biofuels such as rapeseed biodiesel results in significant land use change emissions that lower or in some cases eliminate the greenhouse gas savings of these biofuels compared to fossil fuels.