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EU ‘food versus fuel’ debate deepens

16 Aug 2012, 2.50 pm GMT

EU 'food versus fuel' debate deepens

London, 16 August (Argus) — Soaring crop prices have re-energised European debate over biofuels' green credentials and effect on food prices as European legislators continue their efforts to agree on how to tackle biofuels' impact on indirect land use change (ILUC).

In Germany, the largest European consumer of biofuels, calls by the ministry of economic co-operation and development for a complete suspension of the use of E10 ethanol have elicited a mixed reaction.

As well as lobbying for a cut in ethanol usage, the governing coalition's junior partner FDP is calling for increased usage of B100 — or pure biodiesel — to fulfil Germany's biofuels mandate. The conservative-led environment ministry is likely to adhere to the current target.

Germany's ethanol lobby group BDBE and biodiesel lobby group VDB are fighting claims that biofuels can be held responsible for rising food prices.

The BDBE argues that German ethanol is produced from non-food crops, and that cultivating feedstock for the ethanol industry only accounts for 2pc of Germany's agricultural acreage. It also points out that the European ethanol industry as a whole does not rely on imported feedstocks.

The debate may affect Europe's continuing efforts to agree a response to ILUC. European legislators have yet to resolve questions over the interpretation of ILUC as rifts inside the European Commission have postponed successive attempts to agree legislation. Leaked reports of the findings of various studies into ILUC commissioned by the EU since 2009, when the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and its 10pc renewable energy target for 2020 were published, have also provoked controversy and accusations of bias.

The EU has kept tight-lipped on the issue of “food versus fuel” despite recent UN criticism of mandatory policy.

The EU said it still has no timeframe for the implementation of ILUC.

“For the time being the commission is working on an impact assessment on indirect land use change, thereby taking into consideration potential changes to the existing legislation,” a spokeswoman for the EU energy directorate said.

Energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger and climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard will need to bridge their conflicting positions on ILUC to push forward an EU-wide proposal, the spokeswoman added.

European biofuels mandates escaped largely unscathed after food and commodity price spikes in 2008 put mandatory blending policy under the microscope.

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