On Wednesday 11 September the European Parliament will vote on the future of so called bio-fuels, which are subsidised massively within the European Union. The vote is expected to be tight but Corinne Lepage, the French Liberal MEP with the lead on the dossier, is “cautiously confident” of securing an agreement over an issue that has threatened to fracture the European Parliament.
Proposals to amend EU biofuels legislation have proved divisive, with Parliament’s left and right-wing parties clashing over what restrictions to impose on the multi-billion euro industry, that some scientists link to food price hikes and deforestation.
In 2008, the EU set a target for renewables to comprise 10% of transport fuel by 2020. But the latest EU proposals aim to keep the industry’s expansion in check following evidence that the sugar, cereal or oilseed-based fuels may be less environmentally friendly than first thought. The policy “U-turn” has angered the industry, which has invested heavily in first generation biofuels and become largely dependent on government subsidies. The Parliament’s environment (Envi) committee voted in July for a 5.5% cap on food crops and crops used just for energy purposes in the EU’s 2020 transport fuel mix. This came off the back of studies showing that some biofuels had a stronger greenhouse gas effect than fossil fuels due to a phenomenon known as indirect land-use change (ILUC).