Copa-Cogeca hails biofuels success

THE multiple benefits from producing renewable fuel from crops have been highlighted by Copa-Cogeca, the main farmers' organisation in Europe.

Secretary-general Pekka Pesonen pointed out not only the vital role that biofuels play in terms of reducing European Union oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions, but that they also now play a major role in boosting employment in the rural areas of the EU.

Between 2003-4 and 2008-9, Europe has increased rapeseed production from 12 million tonnes to 19 million tonnes, also generating an extra four million tonnes of rape-seed cake.

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For ethanol, the figures are even more impressive with EU production increasing from 0.5 billion litres in 2004 to 3.5 billion litres in 2009, generating an extra three million tonnes of high-protein feed by-product. Pesonen remarked that the extra seven million tonnes of high-protein feed by-product for use in animal feed replaced a 20 per cent equivalent tonnage of soya meal protein imports on which the EU is heavily reliant for livestock feeds.

With soya imports, the EU has no guarantee of production standards, while the protein substitute is grown to the mandatory sustainability criteria.

The most widely used biofuels include bioethanol made from grain or sugar and blended with petrol and biodiesel from oilseeds. An increase in their use can provide additional sources of income for farmers. Pesonen called the EU renewable energy directive, which is driving the promotion of biofuel use, "a crucial piece of legislation, which introduces mandatory environmental and greenhouse gas sustainability criteria as a condition of access to the markets".

He believed the standards in the directive will be an important driver in encouraging sustainable production, both for biofuels and across different crops and feedstocks worldwide.

EU farmers are well-placed to meet these requirements, he said. "On top of boosting employment, EU biofuels production will have an additional benefit through helping reduce our imports and dependence on imported protein crops from non-EU countries.