In its plenary session today and tomorrow, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will adopt a series of opinions related to biofuels, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, and carbon capture.
In its draft opinion, the Committee takes a very critical stance on the European Commission’s biofuel progress report. Though generally supportive of the energy targets as fixed in the Spring Council on Energy, the EESC emphasizes the manifold problems that go along with broader introduction of first-generation biofuels: high production costs and storage problems for biodiesel; and high consumption of water and fertilizers, potentially causing soil destruction, for ethanol.
The EESC identifies the overarching problems as the limited productivity of biofuels, which demand a lot of energy input per produced output unit and the impact of biofuels on the world market for food, where the Committee anticipate that rising prices will to the disadvantage of many consumers, especially in poorer countries.
To maximize the benefits of biofuels while averting the associated problems the EESC asks for more research on second-generation biofuels produced from non-food crops, for the introduction of a mandatory and comprehensive certification scheme for the sustainable production of biofuels at all stages and for the biofuel target to be revised if it appears that the biofuels are produced in an unsustainable way.
The Committee contends that the implications of the 10% target for biofuels in the transport sector should be carefully assessed. The EESC further contends that the European Commission should specify how it expects to achieve the target for 10% use of biofuels by 2020 bearing in mind the conditions attached to the achievement of that target by the Council, and should be prepared to modify the approach if it appears to be less effective in carbon reduction than has been hoped, or is having other undesirable effects on the structure of world agriculture or on biodiversity.
The European Economic and Social Committee is an institutional consultative body, established by the 1957 Treaty of Rome, that gives representatives of Europe’s socio-occupational interest groups, and others, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the larger European institutions: the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. Its consultative role enables its members, and hence the organizations they represent, to participate in the Community decision-making process. The Committee has 344 members, who are appointed by the Council of Ministers.