Parsing Europe´s New Biofuel Rules

Companies that produce biofuels are broadly cheering the introduction of a certification system by the European Commission. The system, unveiled on Thursday, is supposed to ensure that the industry does not lay waste to forests, drain peat lands or destroy other zones of environmental value in the course of production.

All the same, the system does not yet include specific criteria governing the greenhouse gas emissions created when food crops are displaced by fuel crops, or when areas with high stores of carbon like grasslands, peat lands or forests are chopped down to produce food crops elsewhere. And some critics say that the European rules still do not do enough to encourage development of so-called second-generation biofuels, which use what remains of the crops after the food content is removed.

The new system allows companies and industry organizations to continue developing their own labels for “green” biofuels. But the European Commission would review the criteria they use for applying that label.

Certification would last for five years, but the companies and industry groups would need to pay auditors at least once a year to verify that they are following the guidelines.

“Europe made another important step today toward a more sustainable transport future,” said Rob Vierhout, the secretary general of eBIO, a group representing the bioethanol industry, said on Thursday.

Mr. Vierhout dismissed concerns voiced by scientists and environmental groups about the lack of criteria about changes in land use, describing it as “scaremongering.”

The European Biodiesel Board, another industry group, said it had won many of the concessions it had been seeking on how emissions of greenhouse gases would be reported.

But Brazilian sugar cane ethanol producers welcomed the rules far more cautiously.

The announcement is “an important first step,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, the chief representative in the European Union for the Brazilian Sugar Cane Industry Association. But he said that gaps in the rules needed to be filled in so that “industry has a clear framework within which to operate.”

Mr. Desplechin said it was unclear if Europe would accept fuels from some grasslands and degraded lands.

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/parsing-europes-new-biofuel-rules/

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