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EU Biofuels Policy could change course

In 2009 the European Commission established a 6% drop in the carbon footprint of transport fuel by 2020 and the requirement of accounting for 10% of energy requirements of the transport sector to be met with renewable sources. Biofuel counts towards that requirement if it produces 35% emissions savings over fossil fuels (or 50% from 2017 onwards). But, when indirect land use changes of biofuel production are taken into account most varieties of biodiesel turn out to produce more emissions than bioethanol and often more than fossil fuels. In the United States the Environment Protection Agency did take the land-use effect into account in 2010, when it set standards for which fuels count as renewable. In Europe the biofuels industry and the energy and agricultural sectors argued that the science of indirect land use changes is not robust enough for policy and in October 2012 the commission finally proposed that food-crop fuel quotas be capped at only 5% of transport fuel by 2020 and that fuel suppliers had to report the total emissions of their fuels including land use figures produced by the IFPRI. But on June 20 this year the European Parliament’s energy committee voted to push the cap on food-crop fuels up to 6.5% and removed the stipulation that fuel suppliers report emissions using land-use change figures.

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