|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.21, 30.5.02, p24|
PLANS to boost environmentally friendly 'biofuels' are set to be neutered when energy ministers meet next week.
The proposals, tabled by EU energy chief Loyola de Palacio, would have forced member states to take action to increase consumption of the cleaner fuels to 5.75 of all petrol and diesel sold by 2010.
But a draft to be approved by ministers on Thursday (6 June) will replace the binding targets with 'indicative' ones - removing any obligation to comply with a directive that 12 countries oppose.
The Commission's plans to increase the use of bio-ethanol and other green fuels have been criticised by Greens.
They say the fuels' production from agricultural crops causes more environmental damage than it saves in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
'It's dead, and it deserves to be,' said one EU member state official.
'When you do a full environmental cost-benefit analysis of biofuels it comes out with a negative number, because of all the fertiliser and the energy used transporting the stuff around.'
Of the 15 EU member states, only three - Austria, Spain and Italy - backed the mandatory targets put forward by de Palacio.
Others dismissed what they saw as an ill-disguised sweetener to smooth planned agricultural reforms.
'What this all amounts to is just another hidden subsidy to the farming lobby and that's what it's been seen as,' the same official said.
However, de Palacio vowed through her spokesman to continue pressing for a binding agreement on biofuels.
'One way or another we need firm commitments from member states for the development of biofuels,' said Gilles Gantelet. 'Otherwise there's a risk that it will remain just words.
'Meeting our Kyoto commitments [to cut greenhouse gas emissions] isn't just a matter of words, it's a matter of action.'