European Parliament backs switchover to advanced biofuels 

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Parliament has called for a cap on the use of traditional biofuels and a speedy switchover to new biofuels from alternative sources such as seaweed and waste, in a vote on draft legislation on Wednesday. The measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from the increasing turnover of agricultural land to biofuel production.

"I welcome the Parliament vote in favour of correct accounting of greenhouse gas emissions including indirect land use change and in favour of a reasonable cap on first generation biofuels. This is an important signal that support should be focused on advanced biofuels from 2020. Taking indirect land use change into account is important for the integrity of the EU climate change policy", said lead MEP Corinne Lepage (ALDE, FR) after amendments to the draft legislation were approved with 356 votes in favour to 327 against and 14 abstentions.

"I regret however that the Parliament did not give a negotiation mandate that would have allowed the file to be concluded without further delay in order to give industry certainty regarding its investments", she added.

Indirect Land Use Change

Greenhouse gas emissions that result from the increasing use of agricultural land for biofuel production are addressed by studies of "indirect land use change" (ILUC). Scientific evidence has shown that the resultant increase in emissions can cancel out some of the biofuels' benefits, when taken into account of the whole life cycle from production to consumption.

According to current legislation, member states must ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. In the adopted text,

MEPs say first-generation biofuels (from traditional sources) should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020, as opposed to the current 10% target in existing legislation.

A boost for advanced biofuels

Advanced biofuels, sourced from seaweed or certain types of waste, should represent at least 2.5% of energy consumption in transport by 2020, MEPs said.

Next steps

Rapporteur Ms Lepage was two votes short of receiving a mandate to negotiate with member states, who will now seek a common position of their own. If different to Parliament's first reading text, a second reading will be required.