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EU parliament to vote on « bio »-fuel subsidies

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).

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