EU Commission tightens rules for biofuel use

Cassava harvested for biofuel in Palmira, Colombia - file pic Cassava processing in Colombia: Controversy surrounds biofuels in developing countries

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The European Commission has approved seven schemes set up to ensure that biofuels used in the EU are produced in an environmentally sustainable way.

Biofuel companies can either seek certification from one of these schemes or from a similar national scheme.

Biofuels are part of the EU strategy to cut CO2 emissions.

But the crops are controversial. In some countries they have replaced forests, harming biodiversity. They are also seen as rivals to food crops.

The Commission's new approved schemes are aimed at addressing such concerns and promoting use of biofuels in a sustainable, regulated way.

Each scheme will verify where and how biofuels are produced. Biofuels grown on land that used to be forest or wetland will not qualify.

The EU Energy Commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, said the sometimes damaging side-effects of biofuel production were "a real concern... particularly in the big producing countries, south-east Asia and in South America".

"This is an evolution which we cannot accept," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

Companies importing or producing biofuels will be required to prove that they meet the EU's strict criteria.

The new schemes include ISCC, funded by the German government, which covers all types of biofuels, and two specialising in sugarcane biofuels produced in Brazil - Greenenergy and Bonsucro.

To get approval biofuels will have to emit at least 35% less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels such as petrol, the Commission says. That percentage will rise in the next few years.

The EU wants renewable energy - including biofuel - to have at least a 10% share of transport fuel by 2020.

Commission data shows that in 2007 about 26% of biodiesel and 31% of bioethanol used in the EU was imported. Most of the imports came from Brazil and the US.

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