* Sector threatened by EU studies on biofuels' indirect
* Biodiesel producers say "no scientific consensus" on the
* Group of 150 researchers say science warrants immediate
By Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, Oct 7 Europe's biodiesel industry
rejected the findings of a draft EU study showing that the
cultivation of rapeseed to make road transport fuels is worse
for the climate than using conventional diesel.
The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said on Friday the
study's central finding -- that the effects of indirect land use
to produce most types of biodiesel cancel out any theoretical
emissions savings -- was "highly debatable and unscientific".
"Can an industry like the biodiesel industry -- the number
one renewable fuel industry in Europe -- be at risk of closing
its production plants because of something that is not
validated?" said EBB Secretary General Raffaello Garofalo at a
news conference in Brussels.
On the same day, a coalition of more than 150 international
scientists warned that the indirect land impact of biofuels was
significant and that current scientific understanding justified
immediate action by EU policymakers.
"All the studies of land use change indicate that the
emissions related to biofuels expansion are significant and can
be quite large," the scientists said in a letter to the EU's
executive, the European Commission.
The controversy centres on indirect land use change (ILUC),
a relatively new concept that the rapid expansion of biofuel
production in recent years is driving up the overall demand for
If that increased demand is met by clearing rainforest or
draining peat lands, this can release enough stored carbon into
the atmosphere to cancel out any theoretical emissions savings
NEW EU RULES
The Commission is currently drawing up proposals on how to
account for ILUC in European renewable energy legislation, which
sets a mandatory EU-wide goal for increasing the share of
biofuels in road transport to about 10 percent by 2020.
A series of leaked EU studies showed that biodiesel from
European rapeseed, South American soy beans and Asian palm oil
all have a greater overall climate impact that normal diesel.
If the Commission follows the advice contained in the
studies and penalises individual biofuel crops on the basis of
their estimated ILUC emissions, it could wipe out the bloc's 13
billion euro ($17.5 billion) biodiesel industry overnight.
It would also give a boost to ethanol producers such as
Spain's Abengoa and increase the market for fuels
derived from Brazilian sugar cane as the EU seeks to fill the 80
percent gap in its biofuel market currently occupied by
EBB said it had commissioned two scientific reports of its
own, which showed that the main EU study had greatly
overestimated the impact of ILUC.
"EBB encourages the Commission and the legislative
institutions to refrain from adopting any regulations inspired
by such theoretical and unverified scientific concepts," it said
in a statement.
A panel of 19 independent scientists from the EU's own
environment watchdog -- the European Environment Agency --
recently warned the Commission against any delay in addressing
the indirect land use change impact of biofuels.
($1 = 0.741 Euros)
(Editing by Jane Baird)