Crop shortages could slow European biofuel growth

May 11, 2006 02:00 AM

Shortages of suitable nationally grown crops could slow European moves to replace contaminating transport fuel with clean-burning, plant-based alternatives, industry sources said.
About half the EU's members have already adopted the European Commission target of replacing 5.75 % of transport fuel with biofuel alternatives by 2010. In many countries regular gasoline and diesel are already being blended at up to 5 % with bioethanol and biodiesel respectively to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The EU, like the United States, is looking not only to cut emissions of climate changing CO2 by switching to biofuels, but also to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dependence on mineral oil for both cost and energy security reasons.
Another reason for encouraging biofuels -- typically with tax breaks -- is supposedly to support EU agriculture. How that happens in practice and whether in future there will be limits on imports of raw materials for biofuels is not yet clear.

Dozens of new biodiesel projects are under way in Spain. Some plan to import soy or palm oil as raw material and others have yet to decide. Other countries are also expanding their production and France aims to be using 7 % biofuel for transport by 2010.
Existing subsidies for farmers to grow wheat on set-aside land should help provide grain for ethanol, but biodiesel ideally needs to be made mainly from rapeseed oil.

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