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Parliament supports shift towards advanced biofuels

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On 28 April the European Parliament voted to approve the cap on first generation biofuels made from food-based crops.

Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

In order to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) caused by the growing use of farm land for biofuel crops, the new law says that first generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) should account for no more than 7% of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

Additionally, fuel suppliers must report to EU countries and the EU Commission the estimated level of GHGs caused by indirect land use change (ILUC), i.e. freeing up more to grow food crops, in order to offset that switched to biofuel production, and the Commission must report and publish data on ILUC-related emissions.

The new law also states that the Commission must report back to the European Parliament and the Council of Minister on the scope for including ILUC emission figures in the existing sustainability criteria.

After the law was endorsed by Parliament (the draft had already been agreed informally by MEPs and ministers), lead MEP Nils Torvalds said: 'We succeeded in getting a very technical, technological and ideological file to go ahead. We had much higher goals. Both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions and technological progress. If Europe doesn't move forward, it will be left behind. We also have the systemic problem of the blocking minority in Council, which sometimes develops into a dictatorship of the minority, with member states who are afraid of the future.'

EU member states will have to set a national target, no later than 18 months after the EU directive enters into force, for the share of advanced biofuels, e.g. those sourced from certain types of waste and residues and new sources such as seaweed, in total transport consumption.

Member states must enact the legislation by 2017.