Biofuels legislation published


Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan today published details of regulations which will compel fuel suppliers to include biofuels in their annual sales.

Under the legislation, fuel suppliers will have to include an average of 4 per cent biofuels in their annual sales from July 2010.

There will be a requirement that the biofuels used by oil companies must produce 35 per cent less greenhouse gases than fossil fuel. Biofuels include bioethanol, which is derived from plants such as sugar maize and miscanthus, and biodiesel derived from vegetable and animal oils. The sources are either renewable, or from waste products, and therefore result in fewer greenhouse emissions.

One of the reasons the announcement has been delayed arises from the controversy relating to food shortages in the developing world during early 2008. Some were blamed on biofuels. It was argued that crops traditionally grown for food was being diverted to fuel, leading to increases in prices and subsequent shortages. The basis for the direct link between food shortages and biofuels has since been questioned in some quarters.

However, during the early months of 2008, several European countries, including Britain, called for a review of the EU target of 10 per cent mix of biofuels in petrol and diesel consumption by 2020.

The latest directive of the European Parliament and the Council from April 2009 states that the target must remain unchanged. However, it maintains that it is essential to develop sustainable second-generation biofuels that do not affect food supply.

Mr Ryan said the 4 per cent obligation is necessary to help reduce carbon emissions but also to increase energy security in Ireland. However, the Government has acknowledged that biofuels only provide part of the solution and the bulk of it will have to be imported.

It is estimated that approximately 30 per cent of biofuels used in Ireland is produced by Irish companies. However, with a 4 per cent obligation, the volume of biofuels being used will increase dramatically, with most of it being sourced abroad.

The department has said it hopes the obligation will provide an impetus for increased biofuels production in Ireland.

The 4 per cent figure is a downward revision of targets set by the Government in early 2007 for biofuels to represent 5.75 per cent of the fuel mix by 2009. Mr Ryan has consistently said he is intent on introducing mechanisms that will ensure Ireland reaches the target of biofuels comprising 10 per cent of all transport fuels by 2020.

Labour’s energy spokeswoman Liz McManus called on Mr Ryan to ensure the new target will lead to increased production of biofuels in Ireland, rather than continued imports from developing countries. “The rush to biofuels in recent years has led to
increases in food shortages and practices which danger the environment in
the developing world,” she said.

Ms McManus said the Government must ensure imported biofuels are not damaging the developing world and call for clarification from Mr Ryan on how this will be monitored.

The Maxol Group said the Government should now lower VRT on flexifuel vehicles. Chief executive Tom Noonan said it was “quite bizarre” that flexifuel vehicles incur VRT which is up to 40 per cent higher than their diesel equivalents. Maxol sells its E85 fuel, which is made of 85 per cent bioethanol and 15 per cent petrol, at 30 forecourts across Ireland.

The announcement was welcomed by Green Biofuels Ireland, which operates the country’s only commercial scale biodiesel plant in New Ross, Co Wexford. It produces fuel from waste oils.