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Food-Based Biofuels Left in the Dust of New Plan

(CN) - European regulators said they plan to move away from food-based biofuels in favor of alternatives that have less impact on land and global food production.

As part of its 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, the European Commission had ordered the energy sector to derive 10 percent of fuel from food-based biofuels by 2020. Today, however, there is growing concern that fuels like corn-based ethanol still produce too much greenhouse gas and cut into the global food supply.

Regulators also say that the drive to convert land to agricultural use for the sole purpose of growing food for fuel contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions.

"As the market for biofuels has expanded, it has become clear that not all biofuels are the same, in terms of their greenhouse gas impacts from global land use," the European Commission said in a statement . "Recent scientific studies have shown that when taking into account indirect land use change, for example when biofuel production causes food or feed production to be displaced to non-agricultural land such as forests, some biofuels may actually be adding as much to greenhouse gas emissions as the fossil fuels they replace."

European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard agreed.

"For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels," Hedegaard said in a statement. "We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food. We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable."

Advanced or second-generation biofuels use waste, straw and algae. They emit less greenhouse gases than food-based biofuels and do not create an additional demand for land. The commission wants to offer market incentives to produce the new fuels, and would limit food-based biofuels to the current 5 percent share of fuels used in the EU.

"This proposal will give new incentives for best-performing biofuels. In the future, biofuels will be saving more substantial greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our fuel import bill," EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said in a statement.

The European Parliament and European Council must both approve the commission's changes to the Renewable Energy Directive.

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