* Policy will cut crop-based target, encourage new biofuel
* Draft proposals need member state approval
* U.S. biofuel policy also criticised
(Adds Oxfam reaction)
By Barbara Lewis and Michele Kambas
BRUSSELS/NICOSIA, Sept 17 The European
Commission announced a major shift in biofuel policy on Monday,
saying it plans to limit crop-based biofuels to 5 percent of
transport fuel, after campaigners said existing rules take food
out of people's mouths.
Record high global grain prices have intensified calls for
changes in EU and U.S. biofuel policies, criticised for
snatching away land that should be used for food.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy
Commissioner Guenther Oettinger confirmed in a joint statement
on Monday they wanted to cap the use of crop-based fuel.
"It is wrong to believe that we are pushing food-based
biofuels," the commissioners said.
"In our upcoming proposal for new legislation, we do exactly
the contrary: we limit them to the current consumption level,
that is 5 percent up to 2020."
Reuters reported last week the European Commission would
seek to impose a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels of 5
percent as part of a target to raise the share of renewable fuel
in the transport mix to 10 percent by 2020.
The draft proposals, which are expected to be published in
October, will need the approval of EU governments and lawmakers
to become law.
"The Commission's message for post-2020 is that our clear
preference is biofuels produced from non-food feedstocks, like
waste or agricultural residues such as straw," Monday's
statement from the commissioners said.
"These new types of biofuels are not in competition with
food, nor do they require additional land. We are pushing
biofuels that help us cutting substantial CO2-emissions, do not
compete with food and are sustainable and green at the same
With the 10 percent target looking very difficult, energy
ministers meeting informally on Monday in Cyprus, holder of the
EU presidency, debated how biofuels could be developed
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Oettinger said
increasing the use of biofuels depended on developing a new
generation of sources. These second-generation biofuels are much
more costly than those made from crops such as rapeseed and
"I think we agree that a higher figure for that mixture of
biofuel beyond 5 percent can only be achieved from a second
generation source, not from crops but agricultural waste and
leftovers instead of from food crops," he told reporters.
Campaign group Oxfam urged ministers to support the proposed
EU limit and to ignore warnings from biofuel producers that the
plans would hurt Europe's economy and result in job losses.
"European governments and the European Commission must not
cave in to pressure from the biofuels industry," said Natalia
Alonso, head of Oxfam's EU office. "We cannot continue to burn
food in our petrol tanks while poor families go hungry."
The EU's biofuel goal to source 10 percent of road transport
from renewable sources by the end of the decade is part of an
overall aim to increase use of renewable sources and limit
It also has a goal to draw 20 percent of the total energy
mix from green energy.
Oettinger said the bloc was on track for the 20 percent goal
by 2020, but subsidies were an issue and he urged a more
harmonised EU approach.
"A major disadvantage has been that in some member states,
often budgetary consolidation has led to abrupt changes," he
said. "This is the opposite of protecting people's confidence so
they can safely plan, and it frightens off investors."
Too much subsidy was as bad as sudden changes, and subsidies
will have to dwindle as technology becomes more competitive, he
"What we have seen is that there has been too much support
actually in some cases, more has been done to encourage than
necessary, leading to free-rider effects," Oettinger said.
(Editing by Rex Merrifield and Hugh Lawson)