MEPs split over new rules on biofuels

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A proposal to revise the EU's fuel quality directive to try and limit the amount of farmland used to produce biofuel crops for the transport sector has divided MEPs.

The proposal, debated by MEPs on 9 September 2013, would cap "traditional" biofuels production, and put an increased focus on using new sources, such as seaweed or certain types of waste.

Many environmentalists have said that the amount of subsidies available to farmers for growing biofuels has reduce the area available for growing food crops.

This is known as Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), whereby there is increasing pressure to free up new land, such as through deforestation.

The Commission's proposals would see the share of "first-generation" biofuels, produced from food and energy crops, capped at 5% of total energy consumption for transport purposes by 2020.

Under a compromise agreement, the Environment Committee voted to give the agriculture industry more time to adapt to the new changes, but to increase the cap to 5.5%.

Greek socialist MEP Kriton Arsenis complained that "beautiful, pristine forests that are so vital for our Earth are being cut down [...] leading to greater poverty".

He claimed that more than €6bn in subsidies arose from the EU's policies on biofuels, saying this was a "mistake that we need to correct".

However Polish conservative MEP Konrad Szymanski said that the biofuels industry created jobs in a number of EU countries and warned that "we don't everything to be jettisoned overnight".

He said it was wrong for opponents to compare the situation in the EU with countries such as Brazil, where large areas of forestry have been cut down.

When MEPs came to vote on the directive, they rejected an appeal to start final negotiations with the Council, instead opting to take the matter to second reading.

Critics say this will further delay implementation of tougher rules, as the directive may not be fully adopted until the next parliamentary legislature.

Useful links:

The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

A full speaker's list can be found here.

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