Here’s an update on recent news items and other public policy developments during the last few months relating to the development and commercialization of renewable fuels around the world.
EU energy ministers begin debating proposed RED revisions. At a meeting of the energy ministers of EU member states held on February 22, discussions began about the proposed revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that were announced in October 2012 (see this previous Biofuel Policy Watch post for more detail on these proposed revisions). Most of the discussion focused on the European Commission (EC) proposal to impose a 5% cap on the contribution of food-derived biofuels to the renewable fuel targets under the RED. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told the meeting that there may be flexibility on the proposed cap, and that a level of 6 or 7 percent , “might be more in line with the market,” and that it might make sense to consider separate caps for biodiesel and bioethanol. From published reports, there seemed to be a diversity of views among the member states, but most of the comments favored limits on food-based crops, and also favored assessment of indirect land use change in determining whether fuels should qualify as renewable under the RED. Further discussions are expected at future meetings of the energy ministers in the coming months, culminating in the delivery of a progress report by the current EU president in June 2013.
European Union anti-dumping duty takes effect. On February 22, the EU Council published its final regulation imposing a duty on imports of U.S. ethanol into all European Union nations. This duty of 62.9 euros (approx. $83) per metric ton arises from the EU’s anti-dumping inquiry, and will be in force for five years beginning February 23. The duty was welcomed by ePURE, the European ethanol trade group that instigated the EU inquiry, and sharply criticized by U.S. ethanol trade groups, who have promised to challenge this policy. (see this previous Biofuel Policy Watch post for more detail on the EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against U.S. ethanol).
EU “Clean Power for Transport” Proposal. On January 24, the European Commission announced an ambitious clean fuels strategy that includes recommendations for improvements to the infrastructure for delivering alternative fuels in the market. The most prominent portions of the proposal deal with the need for recharging stations for electric or hydrogen vehicles. Although the proposal identifies biofuels as “the most important type of alternative fuels,” it includes no specific recommendations to improve the infrastructure for biofuels, although there are general requirements for improved consumer information for all alternative fuels and vehicles. The proposal also appears to call for standardized labeling of ethanol/gasoline blends, in accordance with the gasoline standard EN 228. The European ethanol trade group ePURE, which apparently participated in some discussions leading to this proposal, has praised its proposed harmonization of fuel pump labeling for E10, but criticized its omission of E85, and its misguided belief that E85-utilizing vehicles would be limited to captive government fleets.
New pro-biofuels industry group formed. The CEOs of seven European biofuel producers and airlines have launched a new industry-led initiative to promote and expedite the deployment of advanced sustainable biofuels in Europe. The initiative, called Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels, is made up of Chemtex, British Airways, BTG, Chemrec, Clariant, Dong Energy and UPM, and has the goal of promoting market acceptance of advanced sustainable biofuels by all transport sectors. The group has adopted a strategy encompassing promotion of research initiatives, market-based actions, and public communications.
Interest groups urge EU to phase out reliance on land-based biofuels. In a letter released on February 20, a coalition of eight environmental NGOs called for the EU to amend its currently-pending amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive to impose “an absolute limit on the consumption of land-based biofuels in transport”. The group also called for mandatory accounting of carbon emissions linked to indirect land use changes. The coalition included Greenpeace, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth Europe, and other groups.
Environmental group critique of EU biofuel policies. A new report issued in January by CE Delft, an independent research and consultancy organization, assesses ways the EU can meet the stated goals of greenhouse gas emission reductions without relying on what it calls “land-based biofuels”. According to online sources, the report was commissioned and released by four environmental groups including Greenpeace. Among the many assertions in the 127-page report are criticisms of both existing EU policy under the Renewable Energy Directive and also the recently proposed revision. The Delft report proposes that the EU discontinue reliance on all biofuels produced from productive land, and to instead rely on a combination of increased energy efficiency, a shift towards electric transport, and the use of biofuels and biogas produced strictly from wastes or residues “with no other useful applications”.
It has once again been reported that Brazil will raise its ethanol blend mandate back to 25%. This has been consistently rumored throughout the last several months, but Energy Minister Edison Lobao has reportedly told the Brazilian press that this move will be made official in May 2013. In fact, the government has now confirmed, in a publication in the Union Diary, that the blend rate will increase to 25% as of May 1, 2013.
Brazil’s energy minister Edison Lobao has reportedly said that the government could cut taxes on sugarcane derived ethanol to alleviate pressure from rising costs. Such a move would augment rather than replace the increase of the blend ratio from 20% to 25% planned in May.
South Africa’s Department of Energy has announced that the country will miss its 2% biofuels target for 2013.
A new FAO report on food and agriculture cites increased use of food crops for biofuel production as one of several factors in worldwide volatility of food prices.
The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance has recommended to an international gathering of agriculture ministers that they should include biofuels in their plans to attract agricultural investment in the world’s most impoverished areas. The Alliance has also called on attendees at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi to commit to increasing biofuels’ share of the future global energy mix.
The government of Thailand has raised its ethanol subsidy, to make E20 almost 10 cents cheaper than 91 octane gasoline.
Previous Biofuel Policy Watch posts on international biofuel news:
- Biodiesel News (and international biodiesel mandates), March 5, 2013
- The Proposed EU Trade Action Against US Ethanol, January 29, 2013
- International Ethanol Mandates, January 25, 2013
- The Proposed Revision to the EU RED, January 22, 2013
D. Glass Associates, Inc. is a consulting company specializing in government and regulatory support for renewable fuels and industrial biotechnology. David Glass, Ph.D. is a veteran of over thirty years in the biotechnology industry, with expertise in industrial biotechnology regulatory affairs, U.S. and international renewable fuels regulation, patents, technology licensing, and market and technology assessments. Dr. Glass also serves as director of regulatory affairs for Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. More information on D. Glass Associates’ government and regulatory consulting capabilities, and copies of some of Dr. Glass’s prior presentations on biofuels and biotechnology regulation, are available at www.slideshare.net/djglass99 and at www.dglassassociates.com. The views expressed in this blog are those of Dr. Glass and D. Glass Associates and do not represent the views of Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. or any other organization with which Dr. Glass is affiliated. Please visit our other blog, Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels.