EU panel votes to lower controversial biofuel goal


European Union MEPs took a first step towards lowering EU biofuels targets when a European Parliament panel backed a proposal to draw just 4 per cent of road transport fuels from renewable sources by 2015.

The EU plans to get 10 per cent of road transport fuel from renewable sources such as biofuels by 2020, but the target has been attacked by environmentalists, who say it contributes to rising food prices and deforestation.

Biofuels are mainly produced from food crops such as wheat, maize, sugar cane and vegetable oils and are seen as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Officials place great hope in second-generation biofuels, not yet in commercial production, that would use biomass from forest and crop waste, and algae, without competing with food production.

Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes proposed amending the target to 4 per cent in 2015, with a major review before proceeding to a target of 8 to 10 per cent by 2020.

Parliament's environment committee voted 36-0 in favour of the amendment late yesterday, with 8 abstentions.

Big biofuels producers like Brazil are closely watching the commercialisation of biofuels in the EU, hoping to gain a massive new market.

"The EU should be aiming to set the standard for biofuels," Mr Turmes said today.

Although parliament's environment committee is only lending its advice on the proposals, Mr Turmes is leading renewables legislation through the more influential industry committee and said he would put forward a similar amendment there ahead of a vote in September.

The final parliament vote is expected later in the year.