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