Half of the biodiesel european made from imported products

“The drivers of cars and trucks europeans are the biggest consumers of palm oil to Europe -and they don’t even know it !”, said Laura Buffet, the NGO Transport & Environment.

The raw materials used for half of the biodiesel produced from food crops in the EU are imported, ” she adds, before stressing that this fact does not fit the image of a sustainable sector of the biofuels industry likes to return.

33% of the biodiesel made from palm oil imported

Biofuels currently represent 4.9% of the fuel european for transport. And biodiesel accounted for 81% of this figure. According to the analysis of T&E, approximately 33% of this biodiesel is made from palm oil imported.

“The impact of vegetable oils on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is different, but on average, all biofuels from food crops are worse for the climate than fossil fuels, study says T&E.” The palm oil emits three times more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. “

The critics argue that biofuels production on agricultural land displaces food production and increases carbon emissions, as agricultural areas expand to cope with the demand for food. This phenomenon is known under the name of change indirect land use (ILUC). Palm oil has a footprint CASI particularly heavy, because tropical ecosystems are rich in carbon are often razed to make room for plantations.

Waste oils are difficult to trace

The biodiesel is made from oils of rape, soy or palm, but also oils whose origin is difficult to trace, but obviously rarely european.

The european directive of 2009 on renewable energy sets to 7 % the share of biofuels from food crops (first generation), including bioethanol and biodiesel, in the transport sector. This directive should be subject to a major reform in 2020 and the committees of the european Parliament will vote on aspects of the new directive in the coming months.

Impact on food security

European policies on biofuels have resulted in an increase in the demand for vegetable oils in the block. From 2005 to 2015, the consumption of vegetable oils in the food sector has fallen by 10%, while in the transport sector, it has quadrupled.

According to the association of european farmers and agricultural cooperatives, Copa-Cogeca, the eu production of biofuels reduces the dependence of the EU vis-à-vis imports of proteins for animal feed, 10 percent, since the biofuel crops generates large quantities of these products.

However, if half of the raw materials is imported for the production of biofuels, the impact of this reduction on the food security of the EU is limited.

Increase of prices in the world

Copa-Cogeca considers that the increase in demand for biodiesel has pushed crop prices of edible oils in the world 4 %. This increase has had an impact both on the market of oil and food for animals. “The sector of the biodiesel used 60 % of the rapeseed oil consumed in Europe,” says T&E.

In its proposal for the revision of the directive renewable energy 2021-2030 (RED II), the Commission called for a reduction of the limit of first generation biofuels, produced from food crops, used in the transport sector. In response to criticisms related to the environment, this limit would increase to 7% in 2020 and 3.8% in 2030.

The question of farmers ‘ income

The farmers, however, fear that this reduction removes a large flow of income. There is no alternative market in the EU to absorb the 6.4 million tonnes of oil from rapeseed produced in the EU, recalls Nathalie Lecocq, director general of Fediol, the organization that represents the european industry of vegetable oils and animal protein.

“It is not realistic to think that this volume will replace tropical oils imported “, she adds.

T&E calls on it to lower the limit on post-2020 biofuels of the first generation to zero, and maintains that the farmers may turn to crop of alternative protein for the guarantee of their income, while the EU is focusing on advanced biofuels (from waste) and the electrification by renewable energy sources to power the transportation sector.


By Samuel White, Euractiv.com (translated by Marion Candau)

(Article published on Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 10:00)


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