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German biofuel producers take on critics

23 Aug 2012, 11.40 am GMT

German biofuel producers take on critics

London, 23 August (Argus) — German biofuels producers and industry groups are fighting back against political criticism of the country's biofuels mandates as a US drought and rising feedstock prices rekindle the debate over food versus fuel.

Liberal democratic party the FDP has emerged as the most prominent opponent of the country's ethanol mandate within the ruling coalition and has repeatedly called for a temporary suspension of E10 gasoline blends containing 10pc ethanol.

Biofuels have so far managed to escape the full political scrutiny in Germany, but the issue has the potential to cause a further rift in the already strained relationship between the the FDP, which is the junior partner, and the leading conservative CDU party. The CDU has given no indication that it is likely to consider any changes to the current blending mandate.

The FDP's criticisms have focused on the E10 blending mandate, a measure that has been under scrutiny by motoring groups since its introduction last year, albeit because of concerns over the potential effect on vehicle performance rather than environmental reasons.

Industry groups and producers have hit back. Ethanol pressure group BDBE argues that German ethanol is produced from non-food crops, and that cultivating feedstock for the ethanol industry only accounts for 2pc of the country's farming land. It also points out that the European ethanol industry as a whole does not rely on imported feedstocks, instead using non-food crops, such as feed wheat.

Biodiesel industry group VDB has resisted any temptation to score points at the expense of the German ethanol lobby, saying that a possible ban of E10 would be no more than a symbolic move that would be unlikely to tackle the problem of hunger in the world.

Mineral oil lobby group MWV, which has traditionally been cautious about the use of biofuels, has warned against any hasty reaction against E10, arguing in favour of increased use of waste-derived biofuels in the longer term while calling for a separate debate over the use of biofuels in Germany and the EU.

Dominant independent biofuels producer Verbio is pushing for increased use of second-generation biofuels that use only non-food biomass. The company, which has traditionally produced only first-generation biodiesel and ethanol, is now advocating its fast-growing biomethane product as a fuel for the transport sector and is advocating its speedy roll-out in Germany.

Farming lobby group DBV is promoting the greenhouse gas-saving potential of domestically grown rapeseed in order to shift debate in favour of biofuels.

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