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EU strategy for biofuels

The European Union (EU) sets out seven strategic policy areas for the development of the production and use of biofuels by the Member States and developing countries.

ACT

Commission Communication of 8 February 2006 entitled "An EU Strategy for Biofuels" [COM(2006) 34 final - Official Journal C 67 of 18 March 2006].

SUMMARY

In its Strategy, the Commission defines the role that biofuels * produced from biomass, a renewable resource, may play in the future as a source of renewable energy serving as an alternative to the fossil fuel energy sources (chiefly oil) used in the transport sector. It also proposes measures to promote the production and use of biofuels.

The Strategy complements the Biomass Action Plan * adopted at the end of 2005 and responds to a threefold objective: further promotion of biofuels in the EU and in developing countries, preparation for the large-scale use of biofuels, and heightened cooperation with developing countries in the sustainable production of biofuels. This threefold objective breaks down into seven policy areas, which encompass the priorities envisaged by the Commission.

Among the measures intended to stimulate demand for biofuels, the Commission intends to bring forward a report on the implementation of the Biofuels Directive and the possible revision of the Directive, stressing the importance of national targets, biofuel use obligations and ensuring sustainable production of biofuels. The Commission will also pay particular attention to the tax benefits included in the 2003 Energy Taxation Directive and the possible establishment of a regulatory framework for incentives linked to the environmental performance of individual fuels. It will continue to encourage the use of biofuels in public and private vehicle fleets. To this end, at the end of 2005 it proposed a Directive on the promotion of clean vehicles for use in road transport.

Among measures intended for ensuring environmental benefits, the Commission intends to highlight the advantages of biofuels in terms of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (and in particular to link these advantages to the promotion of biofuels). In addition, it is essential to guarantee that feedstock for biofuels is produced in a sustainable manner, both in the EU and in third countries, particularly with regard to the protection of biodiversity, water pollution, soil degradation and the protection of habitats and species. Another important element that should be taken into consideration is the compatibility of technical and environmental regulations, particularly with regard to maximum quantities of biofuels in petrol and diesel.

With a view to developing the production and distribution of biofuels, the Member States and regions are invited to consider the opportunities offered by biofuels in terms of economic activity and job creation within the context of the cohesion policy and rural development policy. The Commission has already proposed guidelines in this respect and intends to set up an ad hoc reflection group. The Commission will ask the relevant industries to justify their use of practices that act as barriers to the introduction of biofuels and will monitor the behaviour of these industries to ensure that there is no discrimination against biofuels.

In order to ensure sustainable production of biofuels, the Commission intends to expand feedstock supplies. One of the measures it intends to implement is to include sugar production for the manufacture of bioethanol * in CAP aid schemes. In addition, it will study the possibility of processing cereals from existing intervention stocks into biofuels, finance a campaign to inform farmers and forest operators, bring forward a Forestry Action Plan and examine the possibility of using animal by-products and waste as energy sources.

In order to enhance the trade opportunities of biofuels, the Commission will study the possibility of establishing separate customs codes for biofuels. It also intends to pursue a balanced approach to trade negotiations with ethanol-producing countries in order to ensure sustainable development of European production and imports of biofuels, and to submit an amendment to the standard for biodiesel *.

The Commission also wants to support developing countries with potential in terms of biofuels, particularly by means of accompanying measures for countries affected by EU sugar reform, a specific aid programme for biofuels, and a framework for effective cooperation that would include among other things the development of national biofuel platforms and regional biofuel action plans.

Lastly, it is essential that the Commission continue to support research and innovation, particularly in order to improve production processes and to lower costs. The principal measures will focus on, inter alia, continuing with activities in the field of research and development via the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development, the full use of second generation biomass and biofuels (i.e. originating from the processing of ligno-cellulosic feedstock such as straw and forest residues). The development of industry-led European technology platforms such as the European Biofuels Technology Platform, should make it possible to establish a shared European vision and strategy for the production and use of biofuels.

Background

The two main reasons for research into renewable energy sources as an alternative to oil are:

  • the significant contribution of transport to emissions of greenhouse gases. Emissions resulting from transport account for 21% of the total emissions of greenhouse gases. As a result, it is necessary to use fuels that are less polluting than oil;
  • the need to guarantee the security of energy supplies by diversifying fuel sources. The limited quantity of available oil and the increase in prices of fossil fuels represent increasingly urgent challenges for the transport sector and for national economies.

Key terms used in the act
  • Biofuel: liquid or gaseous fuel used for transport produced from biomass.
  • Biomass: the totality of organic animal or vegetable matter. This includes in particular the biodegradable fraction of products, wastes and residues from agriculture, forestry, industry and households.
  • Biodiesel: a methyl-ester produced from vegetable or animal oil, of diesel quality, to be used as biofuel.
  • Bioethanol: ethanol production from the fermentation of plants rich in sugar/starch, to be used as biofuel.

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Renewable energy road map - Renewable energies in the 21st century: building a more sustainable future [COM(2006) 848 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Commission Report of 10 January 2007 on biofuels - Report on the progress made by EU Member States in terms of biofuels and other renewable fuels [COM(2006) 845 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In 2005, biofuels were used in 17 of the 21 Member States for which data were available. The Commission indicates a significant increase in market share, reaching 1% on average (it has doubled in two years). Nonetheless, this figure is below the reference value fixed at 2%. In addition, the advances have been very varied: only Germany (3.8%) and Sweden (2.2%) achieved the reference value. While biodiesel achieved a share of about 1.6% of the diesel market, ethanol achieved a share of only 0.4% of the petrol market. On the basis of different projections, the Commission considers it unlikely that Member States will achieve the 5.75% target set by the Biofuels Directive for 2010. It considers that this Directive needs to be amended, in particular by setting a mandatory target of 10% for 2010 for the EU as a whole and by promoting high-quality biofuels. The report also contains an account of the economic and environmental impact linked to the promotion of biofuels.

Commission Communication of 7 December 2005 - Biomass Action Plan [ COM(2005) 628 final - Official Journal C 49 of 28 February 2006].

Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport [Official Journal L 123 of 17 May 2003].

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament on an EU Forest Action Plan [COM(2006) 302 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Action Plan provides a framework for initiatives for forests in the EU, in order to support and enhance sustainable management and the multifunctional role of forests. Set to run for a period of five years (2007-11), it defines a series of key activities that must be implemented by the Commission and the Member States, including the promotion and the use of forest biomass to produce biofuels.

Last updated: 25.04.2008
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