Does the European Commission Really Care about Biofuels?

08.31.17 | Blog | By:

In the a recent report for Future Fuels Outlook service members, I discussed declining carbon intensity (CI) for biofuels in the U.S., especially under the California Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) program. I noted that the LCFS has been successful at incentivizing biofuels producers to the lowest CIs, or GHG savings, possible. Corn ethanol carbon intensity was a major focus of that report, including the industry’s efforts to lower CI through changes to production facilities and proactively engaging the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in providing data inputs into its model, the CA-GREET model, in determining approved pathways and CIs. And, as I showed, they will continue to do that will the ultimate aim of bringing CIs even lower, into the 20-30 range. I discussed the possible outcomes and consequences were that to happen.

But what about the EU? Has the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) accomplished the same? To some degree, yes. Aspects of the RED served to incentivize the development of advanced biofuels like renewable diesel but also propelled ethanol and some biodiesel plants to undertake the same kinds of plant efficiency changes seen in the U.S. to meet RED requirements and continue to participate in Europe’s biofuels market.  While not the subject of this report, the development, implementation and adherence to sustainability criteria and certification schemes is much stronger in the EU and that produced GHG savings/CI reductions as well.

However, changes that have been proposed to the RED in the EU Commission’s Climate & Energy Package (REDII) would essentially remove those incentives by capping food-based 1G biofuels at 3.8% by 2030. Some advocates and NGOs are calling for a total ban on these biofuels. The upshot is that there have been significant efficiency gains but the Commission does not appear to be interested in incentivizing anything further. In fact, is the Commission even interested in a biofuels program at all? Read on and find out.

Future Fuels Outlook members can read more here.

Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.