‘Biofuel proponents vindicated by UN decision’

The decision of UN Climate Change to partner with Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd provides strong vindication for the argument that farmers in Europe should be actively encouraged to grow crops for biofuel production.

This is the opinion of Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Patrick Kent, who gave his views on the matter.

“The ICSA has strongly opposed EU Commission proposals to alter the Renewable Energy Directive (referred to as RED II) which would undermine biofuels produced from crops grown by European farmers such as sugar beet, maize and rapeseed.

“It is more clear than ever that there is no coherent reason for the proposed EU renewable energy U-turn which would phase out crop-based biofuels, and the ICSA is calling on Minister Naughten to oppose this at Council of Ministers level.”

The ICSA has announced its belief that hard-pressed tillage farmers in Europe need every possible outlet for their produce at a time when record high global inventories of cereals has led to successive years of low prices for tillage farmers.

Biofuels are an important source of revenues for European farmers – worth more than €6.6 billion annually. In addition, biofuel production provides European farmers with important by-products such as high-quality protein and energy feed such as distillers’ grains, according to the farmers’ group.

The importance of these by-products cannot be overstated as there is a significant deficit of protein crops for animal feeds in Europe, the ICSA says.

Distillers’ grains are a significant ingredient in dairy and beef rations in Ireland and provide an alternative to the more costly imported soya. Moreover, distillers’ grains from EU ethanol plants are GM free. The GM (Genetically Modified) status of livestock feed is looking increasingly significant in terms of meat and dairy exports to high-value markets, the association says.

However, the key reason for the evolution of the biofuel sector has been the targets set for renewables as a percentage of total energy consumption, which is a central element to EU climate change policy. The target for 2030 is that renewable sources will account for 27% of total energy consumption.

While this policy makes sense on a number of levels, EU has been “incoherent” in terms of achieving renewable targets in the transport sector and at present, only 6% of transport fuel comes from renewables, mainly in the form of biofuels, according to the ICSA.

The proposals to do a complete U-turn on biofuels under the EU Clean Energy Package (involving re-writing the Renewable Energy Directive) makes a mockery of EU Climate Change strategy, the organisation claims.

The ICSA highlights that crop-based biofuels are achieving 65-70% less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. This is now “starkly exposed” by the partnership of UN Climate Change with Irish agri processor, Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd (EERL) which will be showcased with an international alliance of ethanol producers at the COP 23 event in Bonn next month.

“If biofuels are good enough for UN Climate Change they should be part and parcel of EU climate change strategy,” Kent stressed.

“It is now urgent that Ireland supports biofuels, in the interests of farmers all over Europe and in the interests of ameliorating the pressures on Irish farmers to reach unattainable targets on emissions reductions when there are ready-made improvements to be found in the non-ETS [Emissions Trading System] sector via reducing transport emissions from existing combustion engines,” the president concluded.