On July 21, 2016, the European Court of Auditors released Special Report No 18/2016: The EU system for the certification of sustainable biofuels. This report assessed the existing biofuels sustainability certification framework of the European Commission (EC) and highlighted key issues with the system. Issues with the certification framework could undermine the European Union's (EU) 2020 goals for renewable energy. The report determined that the EC does not properly track working conditions occurring during biofuel production, indirect land use-change (ILUC) caused by biofuel production, and environmental requirements of feedstock sources. The Court made several recommendations based on the audit:
1. For future recognitions, the Commission should carry out a more comprehensive assessment of voluntary schemes to ensure that the schemes:
(i) assess the extent to which certified biofuels production entails a significant risk of negative socioeconomic effects and of ILUC. To this end, the Commission should require voluntary schemes to report once a year based on their certification activities any relevant information concerning the above mentioned risk;
2. For future recognitions, the Commission should assess whether the voluntary schemes' governance reduces the risk of conflict of interests and request the voluntary schemes to ensure transparency.
(ii) effectively verify that EU biofuel feedstock producers comply with EU environmental requirements for agriculture;
(iii) provide sufficient evidence of the origin of waste and residues used for the production of biofuels.
3. The Commission should supervise recognised voluntary schemes by:
(i) checking that the schemes'certification operations comply with the standards presented for recognition;
4. The Commission should propose that the Member States support their statistics with evidence on the reliability of the biofuels quantities reported.
(ii) requesting voluntary schemes to set up a transparent complaints system.
5. To ensure comparability of the statistics on sustainable biofuels and to increase assurance on the reliability of data on advanced biofuels, the Commission should propose to the Member States a harmonisation of the definition of waste substances.
On June 9, 2016, European Bioplastics (EUBP) announced the support of a European Parliament (EP) report emphasizing the role of bioplastics in the creation of a circular bioeconomy. The report, produced by Italian MEP Simona Bonafè¨, outlines legislation that is needed to use waste more efficiently to create bio-based materials. Increasing the value of waste by promoting its use to create other bioproducts will help shift the linear bioeconomy to a circular, more efficient, bioeconomy. The report suggested defining composting and anaerobic digestion of organic waste as recycling, and requiring the collection of biowaste by 2020 in order to increase organic recycling of biowaste to 65 percent by 2025. On June 15, 2016, the EP debated possible new definitions of litter, with the intent of reducing both land and marine based litter by 50 percent by 2030.
On May 26, 2016, Poland was referred to the European Union (EU) Court of Justice for establishing restrictions for certain imported biofuels and raw materials used for the production of biofuel. The EU's Renewable Energy Directive requires sustainable biofuels and their raw materials be treated equally by Member States regardless of origin. Polish law provides preferential treatment for fuel operators sourcing at least 70 percent of their biofuels from Polish manufacturers, and for biofuel production from raw materials originating in certain countries. Poland also lacks fuel requirements for hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), despite EU law preventing fuels from being marketed without the requirements. The European Commission first sent Poland a formal notice in February 2014, with Polish authorities disagreeing with the Commission's interpretation of the Renewable Energy Directive.
On March 11, 2016, a consortium made up of Ecofys, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and E4tech announced that the final report on the Land Use Change (LUC) study is now available online. The study was commissioned and funded by the European Commission (EC) and was focused on using the GLOBIOM model to determine ILUC associated with the ten percent renewable energy use target for transportation mandated by the European Union's (EU) 2020 goals. The report, The land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU, determined LUC emissions results as well as total LUC caused by the EU 2020 biofuel mandate. Total LUC was determined to be 8.8 million hectares (Mha), with 8 Mha consisting of new cropland, and 0.8 Mha made up of short rotation plantations on existing cropland. LUC emissions were tested by scenario and divided by biomass and biofuel type. Conventional biodiesel feedstocks were found to have high LUC effects, with conventional ethanol feedstocks having lower LUC emissions, and advanced biofuels produced from short rotation crops or perennials having negative LUC emissions.
On May 20, 2015, the European Parliament voted to reject a
that would eliminate the requirement for import
licenses of ethanol of agricultural origin. The plan was
rejected with a
of 486 to 164 amid concerns that the
loss of ethanol import data that came from the licenses
would negatively impact anti-dumping duty cases. The
anti-dumping duties were implemented in February 2013, and
are valid through February 2018. The duties require
$83.03 per metric ton of U.S. ethanol that is exported to
European Union (EU) countries. The continuation of
ethanol import licenses also ensures transparency, and
that current information about the evolution of the
ethanol market is available to regulators and other
On April 29, 2015, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) released a draft standard titled "Low iLUC Risk Biomass Criteria and Compliance Indicators" that will allow producers to show that they generate biofuels crops with a low-risk of indirect land use change (ILUC). The standards take into account yield increase, unused or degraded land, use of waste or residues, and integrated sugarcane and cattle production. The RSB standard is intended to be used in conjunction with the new European Union (EU) ILUC amendment that has provisions for low-ILUC biofuels. The standard will be released in final at the RSB general assembly meeting June 1, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland, and is currently open to public comments.
On April 14, 2015, Members of the European Parliament and certain ministers agreed to limit how biofuels derived from agricultural crops would be accounted for in the European Union's (EU) goal to increase the use of renewable energy. The new law caps the use of first generation biofuels to seven percent of the total energy use being counted towards the EU's renewable energy goal of ten percent. Member States will have the opportunity to reduce the cap of crop-based biofuels at their discretion. The law came about in part from fears about food security and negative indirect land use change (ILUC) occurring due to widespread crop-based biofuels. The EU has used ILUC to calculate the net greenhouse gas (GHG) production of biofuels, despite concerns that it is scientifically flawed. The agreement reached will eliminate the ILUC factor as a way to judge the benefits of fuels in the EU, but will still need to be reported by fuel suppliers. The agreement will be voted on during the April 27-30, 2015, plenary session. Member States will have until 2017 to enact the legislation.
During a summit in Brussels on October 23-24, 2014, European Union (EU) leaders agreed to a blueprint to guide climate and energy policy through 2030. The overall goals of the blueprint are to achieve a 40 percent emissions reduction by 2030, relative to 1990 emissions levels, as well as a target of 27 percent for total energy consumption in the EU being provided by renewable sources by 2030. The EU already has a 20 percent emissions reduction target for 2020. The target is expected to help build and maintain momentum for the larger 2030 emissions goal. Individual countries will not be responsible for the 27 percent renewable energy goal, rather, the EU as a whole wants to reach that level of renewable energy. In order to assist countries in achieving this goal, the EU is increasing the current 300 million Emissions Trading System (ETS) allowances to 400 million to help fund low-carbon innovation. More information about the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework can be found in the EU's post-summit communique.
On October 21, 2014, the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) submitted petitions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that biodiesel fuel manufacturers be granted the same Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) exemptions that petroleum-based diesel manufacturers already receive. BRAG made its petitions through two mechanisms allowed under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) rules. BRAG's petitioning of EPA was reported in the Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Report story "Biobased Diesel Companies Petition EPA For Rules Comparable To Traditional Diesel."
One petition, "Section 21 Petition for Section 8(a) Partial Exemption in Chemical Data Reporting for Biodiesel Products," was submitted to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting that EPA initiate a rulemaking to amend the TSCA Section 8 CDR partially exempted chemical list set forth in the EPA regulations at 40 C.F.R. Section 711.6(b)(1), referred to as the (b)(1) List. Specifically, BRAG petitioned EPA to add "biodiesel" as a chemical category for partial exemption for the same reasons as those given for petroleum chemicals already included, which occurred via a rulemaking process based on proposals submitted by the American Petroleum Institute (API). BRAG contends that biodiesel products should be treated similarly to the petroleum products included in the (b)(1) List due to the conditions of manufacture and the properties and uses of the substances.
The second petition, "Petition for Partial Exemption of Biodiesel Products," was submitted to the CDR Coordinator of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). In it, BRAG petitions to add "biodiesel" as a chemical category in the partially exempted chemical list at 40 C.F.R. Section 711.6(b)(2)(iv), referred to as the (b)(2) List. EPA has stated that CDR processing and use information for chemicals on the (b)(2) List is of "low current interest" and has established a petition process to enable stakeholders to add chemicals to the (b)(2) list.
BRAG believes biodiesel belongs on the (b)(1) List but because there is no formal petition process to amend the (b)(1) List, it decided to proceed with the "low current interest" petition process to amend the (b)(2) List as well.
Amending the CDR partial exemption list to include biodiesels is necessary to ensure equitable regulatory treatment of chemical substances of comparable release and exposure potential, and to avoid EPA providing regulatory relief to one subset of diesel products over another -- even though both meet the decision conditions identified by EPA in its final rulemaking to amend the (b)(1) List, especially in light of EPA's stated objectives and interest in sustainable technologies in general, and ongoing programs that engage biodiesel producers in particular.
Regarding the petitions, BRAG's Executive Director Kathleen M. Roberts stated: "We hope EPA recognizes that these petitions only seek to level the playing field for biodiesel and petroleum-derived diesel manufacturers. Under current regulation, biodiesel producers are required to spend significant amounts of time and money gathering and providing CDR information to EPA while petroleum-derived producers are not, for chemicals that are very similar, serve the same purpose, and are managed in equivalent ways."
In a July 9, 2014, press release, the European Union (EU) announced the launch of seven public-private partnerships, established under the EU's new research funding program Horizon 2020. They represent a total investment of € 19.5 billion into research and innovation over the next seven years, where the EU contribution of € 7.3 billion will unlock a € 12.2 billion investment from the private sector and the Member States. The press release is available online.
These partnerships work in a number of fields crucial for Europe's economic growth, creation of jobs, industrial competitiveness, and well-being of citizens, one of which is a partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The priorities of this new € 3.7 billion public-private partnership, the Bio-based Industries (BBI) program, include doubling of the share of biobased chemicals produced in Europe (from 10 percent to 20 percent); an increase of biomass mobilization by 10 percent as well as a reduction of imports of protein for feed by 15 percent and fertilizer components used for feedstock production by 10 percent; and meeting of the 15 percent target increase in waste and byproduct utilization by 2020.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, stated: "The bioeconomy has huge potential that is attracting investments all around the world. With this new partnership, we want to harness innovative technologies to convert Europe's untapped renewable resources and waste into greener everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels, all sourced and made in Europe."
Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, stated: "The BBI 2014 Call for Proposals is a first step in a long-term strategy that will deliver tangible social, economic and environmental results. It is the outcome of a year-long effort involving the European Commission and the industry following an extensive consultation of experts and stakeholders. It is a visionary call that lays the foundation for an increasingly ambitious and successful initiative." More details on BIC are available online.