EU biomass targets put pressure on global land resources

There is a now a widespread awareness of the tensions created by mandated EU biofuels targets for global land use and food markets. The requirement that 10% of EU transport fuel should come from renewable sources by 2020 is set out in the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC adopted by the European Council in April 2009.

The other important target in this Directive is that 20% of the EU’s gross final consumption of energy should come from renewable sources by 2020. Indeed, from a land use and food markets perspective this target could have a potentially greater impact.

While much of this renewable energy in the electricity sector will come from wind, overall by 2020 biomass will remain the most important source of renewable energy in the EU (accounting for 57% of the total, according to an analysis of Member State National Renewable Energy Action Plans undertaken by The Netherland Energy Research Centre and reported in AEBIOM’s 2011 Annual Statistical Report).

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Leaked Commission figures sound death knell for biodiesel

Euractiv has a post purporting to contain the default carbon emission values to be assigned to biofuels made from feedstocks such as palm oil, soybean or sugar beet when the European Commission releases its proposed legislation on biofuels and indirect land use change later this spring, based on a leaked draft of the proposal.

Any application of the leaked values would severely hamper the ability of biodiesel manufacturers to enter into the EU’s new biofuels certification plan, announced last August.

Assuming that the EU does not relax its overall target for renewable energy in transport fuel (10% by 2020), if biodiesel fails to make the grade this would raise the demand for bioethanol made either from domestically-produced sugar beet or imported either from Brazil or Southern Africa.

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Farming and the depression

Is it too early to call it a depression? Difficult to tell, but all the news this month is pointing in that direction. So it is timely that over at the CAP2020 blog, Martin Farmer has written a lengthy post on the impact of the global economic slowdown on farming. In many respects, it’s a case of swings and roundabouts. Commodity prices are down, but so too are key input prices like oil. Consumers have less money to spend, but they still need to eat. Recent spikes in profits provide new money for investment, but bank loans have never been more costly.

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The last word on biofuels

It’s December and the weekend newspaper supplements are already starting to swell with all those ‘end of the year’ reviews – on news, sport, books, films, celebrity gossip… In the same spirit my German Marshall Fund colleague Dr Tim Searchinger has written a policy brief that brings together in one place the conclusions of ten major reviews of biofuel policies that have been released by leading international insitutions, national technical agencies, and international scientific organizations since January 2008.

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The great targeting debate

Czech agriculture minister Petr Gandalovic made an curious statement at the informal Agriculture Council meeting held earlier this week in the French Alps. Mr Gandalovic, who will assume the chairmanship of the Council under the Czech EU Presidency in the first half of 2009, told his colleagues:

“The more specific you make the policy, the more room you give to bureaucrats who make the decisions. Non-targeted payments give more power to farmers.”

In case it’s not clear, Mr Gandalovic was making the case against targeted payments. In doing so, perhaps inadvertently, he touched on a question that goes to the very heart of the debate about the future of the CAP: the extent to which the CAP’s 54 billion euros of annual public expenditure should be targeted on clearly defined objectives and measurable outcomes.

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Barroso's poll results – 87% say ditch biofuels target

Several bloggers have noted the amazing disappearing biofuels poll (an online poll about EU biofuels policy that suddenly vanished from the website of the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso without any explanation). Following repeated enquries to the Commission President’s press office that were completely ignored, a more formal approach under the EU access to documents law has yielded a very comprehensive reply from Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, the Commission President’s Deputy Spokeswoman. I can now reveal the results.

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Barroso’s poll results – 87% say ditch biofuels target

Several bloggers have noted the amazing disappearing biofuels poll (an online poll about EU biofuels policy that suddenly vanished from the website of the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso without any explanation). Following repeated enquries to the Commission President’s press office that were completely ignored, a more formal approach under the EU access to documents law has yielded a very comprehensive reply from Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, the Commission President’s Deputy Spokeswoman. I can now reveal the results.

Read the rest