Ireland imported 126 million litres of biofuels in 2013, 84% of what we used, according to An Taisce.

An Taisce says the EU biofuels policy is failing to meet one of its key aims, namely, to boost self-sufficiency in terms of transport fuels.

An Taisce says that reasonable progress has been made in Ireland to recover used cooking oil from restaurants and take-aways, with the total volume standing at 9.5m litres in 2013. However, compared to the amount recovered domestically, Ireland is importing three times more used cooking oil from Spain, and one-and-a-half times more used cooking oil from the UK, and overall, imports of used cooking oil (UCO) outweigh domestically recovered UCO by seven times.

Taking the sector as a whole, around half of all the biofuel used in Ireland is derived from used cooking oil (49%), one quarter comes from corn (24%), while tallow from meat rendering plants makes up one in every eight litres (12.5%). The other feedstocks that go to make biofuel used in Ireland are wheat (7.6%), sugar beet (4.3%), sugar cane (3%), and palm oil mill effluent (0.9), and rape seed (0.3%).

The analysis by An Taisce comes as EU energy Ministers are today expected to approve a limit on the amount of land-based biofuels that can be counted towards the requirement that renewables make up 10% of transport fuel by 2020. The new limit, set at 7%, aims to stem competition from biofuel for land, with EU policy responsible for a significant part of the global tension between fuel and food.

At issue also is ‘Indirect Land Use Change’ (or ILUC), whereby food production in lower-income countries is pushed into more marginal land as international companies buy up premium land for fuel crops to supply mainly EU and US markets.

Research, it says, is also showing that biofuels do not reduce emissions as much as originally thought, and some do not reduce it at all.

An Taisce points out that EU policy is not sustainable. In the European Union as a whole, the percentage of imports is similar to Ireland (approaching 85%). If current policy is pursued, it will take 70 million hectares of land to supply the European Union’s biofuel demand, an area equivalent to the size of Sweden and Poland combined.

“In terms of reducing emissions most biofuels remain very much unproven”, according to James Nix, Policy Director at An Taisce, adding that “EU policy initiatives need to be directed much more towards energy savings than biofuel”.