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Biofuels Consultation

by afew Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 12:51:39 PM EST

Below the fold is the text of our submission as it stands.

If you have anything to say against it, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Question 1.1:
Is the objective of promoting biofuels still valid?

In a broad sense, yes, since petroleum-based fuels pose greater environmental problems, and supply in the future will become increasingly strained and increasingly expensive.

However, a distinction needs to be made between types of biofuel and their sources.

1)    An EU promotion system that implied large-scale biofuel imports from tropical or sub-tropical zone producers (sugar-cane ethanol/ palm oil for biodiesel) would  exchange one form of energy insecurity for another, and encourage rainforest clearance and unsustainable plantation practices;
2)    First-generation biofuels run up against a problem of land use (see Question 2.1 for details), of food production, and of the risk of continuing or exacerbating unsustainable agricultural practices. Since intensive farming methods currently require substantial fossil fuel inputs, first-generation biofuels do not seem like a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
3)    Second-generation biofuels, based on non-food feedstocks cultivated on marginal land by sustainable methods, and with a better fossil energy balance than first-generation biofuels, show considerable potential for the future.

It follows that promotion of biofuels is a mid- to long-term proposition, and should concentrate on support for second-generation fuels. Imports or food-crop use subsidized by the CAP are not a viable overall solution. The EU should resist pressure from interested agri-business groups to divert a large funding stream into first-generation biofuels, just as it should resist petroleum industry pressure to go on with fossil fuel use as if there were no problems.

The EU, in its dual concern with reducing GHG emissions and promoting energy security, should first and foremost see future provision of transport fuel as a demand problem rather than a supply problem. This means discouraging road and air transport in favour of railways and waterways, and promoting public transport by light rail or electrified vehicles in urban areas.

It also means taking energy efficiency much more seriously than we have to date. The notion that we can all go on consuming liquid fuels as in the past, because biofuels will phase in and take up the petroleum slack, is a feel-good fallacy that needs to be actively discouraged. Car manufacturers must work rapidly towards decreasing fuel consumption as well as decreasing GHG emissions per unit of fossil energy consumed. Currently, the car industry is not meeting its own targets on these issues. If the EU is to use the tool of obligation, this is the first and most vital area in which it should be applied.

The key to lower pollution and greater energy independence is reduced consumption.

Question 2.1:
With existing policies and measures, will biofuels achieve a market share of 5.75% in the
European Union by the end of 2010? (Please give reasons for your answer)

This target seems attainable only by only by some combination of the following means :
·    major transfers of arable land from food to ethanol/biodiesel;
·    a major diversion of food crops (maize, wheat, barley) from animal feed to biofuel production, with a corresponding fall in meat and dairy production;
·    large import volumes of either biofuels or animal feed.

According to Eurostat, transport fuel consumption for 2002 in the EU-25 was :
petrol, 5.2 e6 TJ ; diesel, 6.6 e6 TJ.
5.75% of these gives:
petrol, 0.3 e6 TJ ; diesel, 0.38 e6 TJ
Ethanol : 0.3 e6 TJ petrol  / 22 MJ/l = 13.6 e9 l
Biodiesel: 0.38 e6 TJ diesel / 34 MJ/l = 11.2 e9 l
If all the area (statistics, DG Agriculture) currently dedicated to potential ethanol feedstocks were used for ethanol, production could be an estimated:
·    10.5 e9 l of ethanol potential from the current EU-25 cultivated area of sugar beet (2.1 e6 ha @ 5000 l/ha)
·    19 e9 l of maize ethanol potential (from 6.5 e6 ha @ 3100 l/ha)
·     33.5 e9 l of common wheat ethanol potential (from 13.4 e6 ha @ 2500 l/ha)
·     23 e9 l of barley ethanol potential (from 23 e6 ha @ 1000 l/ha).
If only the surplus percentage (in excess of 100% self-sufficiency) of these crops were to be used, the estimates would be:
·    30% sugar beet: 10.5 e9 l x 30% = 3.15 e9 l ethanol
·    9% common wheat: 33.5 e9 l x 9% = 3 e9 l
·    13% barley: 23 e9 l x 13% = 3 e9 l
Surplus production (9 e9 l ethanol) would not suffice to cover the needed 13.6 e9 l. Only an extension of the area of ethanol feedstock crops, or a transfer of crops from animal feed to ethanol, would cover needs.

As for biodiesel, the total area of the two principal feedstocks, rapeseed and sunflower seed, would produce an estimated:

·    5 e9 l from rapeseed (4.5 e6 ha x 1100 l/ha);
·    2.2 e9 l from sunflower (2.2 e6 ha x 1000 l/ha)

Total production (7.2 e9 l) would not suffice to cover the needed 11.2 e9 l.

However, support for local initiatives in favour of farmers using their own rapeseed/sunflower seed to power their tractors and machinery would start to reduce fossil fuel inputs in farming, and should be encouraged. Recycling of used oils and cooking fats should also be actively encouraged, and undertaking it on a large scale should be seriously considered.

Question 5.1
Should the EU continue acting in favour of biofuels after 2010?

If oil prices, as is likely, continue to rise, it will become economical to use biofuels and then EU economic support will be unnecessary. However, the Transport and Energy Directorate should encourage the funding of second-generation biofuel research under the Energy and Agriculture objectives of the EU's scientific research Seventh Framework Programme for 2007-13, and make it a research priority for the rest of the decade of 2010-20.

Even if not actively promoting biofuels, the EU should continue to ensure that the technical regulatory framework for transport fuels does not unfairly favour fossil fuels over biofuels.

Should EU action include the following measures (which could be pursued without
defining a quantified target):

c) continued scope for Member States to support biofuels through tax

Biofuels should be tax-exempt. Fossil fuels should be subjected to increased tax. Exemptions for aircraft fuel should end. Exemptions for agricultural use of fossil diesel too, it being understood that incentives to go over to biodiesel would be offered (above and beyond tax exemption).

Question 6.1
Do you have any comments on the following issues, listed in the biofuels directive for
inclusion in the Commission's progress report:

d) the sustainability of crops used for the production of biofuels, particularly land
use, degree of intensity of cultivation, crop rotation and use of pesticides?

Organic farming should be much more actively encouraged by the EU.
The use of feedstocks such as maize and sugar beet, currently cultivated by unsustainable methods in respect of soil fertility and erosion, water wastage, soil and water pollution, threats to biodiversity through excessive use of pesticides, should be discouraged.
The use of feedstock crops as a "back door" for the introduction of GM varieties should be resisted.

Should EU action include the following measures (which could be pursued without
defining a quantified target):

is question 5.3

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 12:58:24 PM EST
attainable only by only by some

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:00:30 PM EST
pollution, or threats to biodiversity

insert an "or" in the last paragraph.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:07:01 PM EST
"and". It's cumulative.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:12:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whenever all others concerned think it's OK, I'm ready to send this off.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:14:57 PM EST
I've already PN'ed the heck out of it.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:18:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After a day of doing three things at a time, the most likely contribution I'll make is a translation into an incantation to summon C'thaga.

Send it ... we'll expect the debrief diary tomorrow after you have a well-deserved rest. Good work.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:24:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 04:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It looks excellent and professional. Well done.
How did you sign it?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 05:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My name as a private citizen, Contributing Editor, European Tribune.

I said in the covering email that the text was the result of collaborative work by members of ET. I gave a hyper-link to ET as well as the typed URL.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 01:50:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Off it went.

Someone can now say: Oooh, look at that number that's out by a factor of 10!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 01:57:46 PM EST
Now I've been out for a bike ride through the fields, I realize I forgot to mention set-aside land. (Fallow) Theoretically that's 5.4 e6 ha they could turn into feedstock land. In fact only part of it could be used, (very small fields aren't easy to use), it's not the best land (which is why farmers chose to set those fields aside), there are biodiversity problems (areas that have lain fallow for ten to fifteen years have become a relative shelter for flora and fauna), and regrouping some of them into larger fields for mechanisation/irrigation reasons would involve destruction of hedges, banks, and ditches.

I don't think it would change the basic point that 1st-gen biofuels from EU-grown feedstock aren't going to supply enough biofuel.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 04:27:51 PM EST
This morning I realized I forgot another point I wanted to put in -- to counter the "phase-in" argument for subsidising first-generation biofuels. This argument says  that, though the immediate benefits of 1st-gen bfs are not obvious, they will pave the way for, and phase in, second-generation bfs. Which is hard to accept, given that 1st and 2nd gen bfs use different feedstocks from different locations and with different plant.

Of course, next time we do this kind of work, let's hope we can wind up the threshing out of ideas and data sequence some days before deadline, so the drafting can take place with a little time for reflection.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 01:58:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd appreciate a diary reflecting on the experience and how we could do it better next time ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 02:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will do after a little pause for thought. Tomorrow perhaps.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 03:47:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Afew.. I think you should be congratulated for all the work... together with Migeru...

Congratulations.. I do not know how we can recognize what you have done...but I would indeed be glad...to find a good way.

There are so many ways...but the least is a huge congrat.

great.. just great.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 04:59:30 PM EST
I nominate Afew for the title of Chairman of the ET Kolkhoz.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 05:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How much free ethanol (er... vodka...) do I get?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 01:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As much as you can get away with. You also get free extravirgin olive biodiesel for your salads.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 03:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Incredible piece of work. Afew and Migeru have gone above and beyond with this. During this past Monday I've been trying to catch up, but the process was constantly running its course ahead of me.

Even following the debate was beyond spectacular. Congratulations are definitely in order.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 08:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While this diary's still visible, here's an interesting piece from Euractiv:

Alternatives to replace oil in transport are "urgently needed" but a long-term vision on what technology is best suited to replace it is still up in the air, said Fabrizio Barbaso, Deputy Director General at the Commission's transport and energy department.

Speaking at a conference on "future energy sources for transport" in Brussels, Barbaso indicated that the Commission had already identified three main candidates for the job - biofuels, natural gas, and hydrogen.

But he said each one of these present "tremendous technological challenges" that are just starting to be addressed, for instance by joint EU research efforts such as technology platforms (on biofuels, hydrogen, etc.). <snip>

"My feeling is that we have not yet reached [an agreement on] policies largely supported by all parties," Barbaso said. And until significant progress is made, he said the Commission considers energy efficiency as its "number one priority".

(That's not so bad, because that's part of what we suggested. The first part being to encourage a switch from car, truck, and plane, to rail, water, and public transport.)

See also this page from the same source, on a French Senate report:

A report by the French Senate calls on the EU to lead an energy transition to counter climate change and "an oil shock of great magnitude" which they predict will hit the world by 2020 at the latest.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 07:46:48 AM EST
Do not forget Starvid's diary The Swedish commission against oil dependence delivers its report from two weeks ago.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 11th, 2006 at 07:51:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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