Biofuel targets not possible without biotech, says EuropaBio
EuropaBio, the EU association for bioindustries, which represents 25 national biotechnology associations and some 1800 small and medium sized biotech companies in Europe, has published a position paper on the EU's energy and climate change proposal saying that the biofuel targets contained in the package are indeed attainable, though not without the help of its members. EuropaBio's Biofuels Task Force states that biotechnology will be needed to wring a higher yield out of each year's harvest in order to reach the 10% biofuel target by 2020.
Cultivating energy crops on set-aside and non-cultivated land will contribute to meeting the EU's biofuel targets, but alone will not be sufficient. The solution is increasing output per hectare and boosting crop quality through plant science, according to EuropaBio, the EU association for bioindustries.
In the integrated energy and climate change package proposal, endorsed by EU Heads of State and Government earlier this year, the Commission set the ambitious goals of increasing biofuel use in the EU to 5.75% by 2010 and 10% by 2020.
How biotechnology can help
In order to meet these targets, the EU must turn to biotechnology, claims EuropaBio. Biotechnological techniques can be used to:
- increase biomass yield per hectare while reducing the needs for production inputs;
- improve crop quality so that they offer more fermentable carbohydrates or higher oil content;
- make it easier to grow energy crops in areas with marginal conditions;
- develop efficient micro-organisms and enzymes to convert (hemi)cellulose to sugars, which can then be fermented into biofuel;
- convert agricultural waste into biofuels.
EuropaBio is also recommending further research into second generation biofuels, which produce fuel from (hemi)cellulose and organic agricultural waste. Degrading enzymes with improved efficiency will make a significant contribution to meeting the energy targets, the association believes.
Supporting the first generation market
'Biotechnology is today one of the most effective and innovative tools we have to attain European targets for biofuel use in a sustainable way,' says Chairman of EuropaBio and President of Novozymes, Steen Riisgaard. 'We are all excited about getting to the second generation biofuels, but I would like to underline that in order to facilitate the transition towards second generation biofuels, a market for first generation biofuels is needed, with an appropriate infrastructure and distribution.'
Specific recommendations aimed at supporting a biofuel market include:
- the Member States implementing binding targets for blending biofuels with petrol and diesel;
- a change in fuel standards to permit a higher biofuel content in blends of petrol and diesel;
- performance-based regulations that encourage the efficient delivery of biofuels that are most effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In March of this year the European Council gave its backing to a package of measures intended to slow climate change and reduce reliance on unsustainable energies. A binding target on the use of renewable energy was set at 20% for 2020. Each Member State will decide for itself how to meet this target. 20% is also the figure for cuts to carbon dioxide emissions - to be reached by 2020, using 1990 levels as a starting point. Commission President José Manuel Barroso described the agreement as the most significant yet in which he had played a part.
Sources: CORDIS, EC
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