EU energy ministers unable to reach agreement on food-based biofuel limits

Countries divided over how high or low limit should be

EU energy ministers have so far been unable to agree on a compromise deal to limit the use of transport fuels made from food crops, which critics say pushes up food prices and can do more harm than good to the environment, according to reports.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the delay would only damage the European Union in its efforts to reduce dependence on imported oil and gas and curb greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, in response to warnings about food price inflation and unintended consequences on the environment, the European Commission proposed to cap the bloc’s use of crop-based biofuels at 5 percent. This number compares with a goal to get 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament backed a slightly higher cap than the Commission proposed of 6 percent, which led to opposition from the biofuels industry. The industry has invested on the basis of the original 10 percent goal and has accused the Commission of a U-turn that it says will force plant closures and cost jobs.

EU energy ministers debated a new compromise of 7 percent put forward by Lithuania, holder of the EU presidency. Some Member States, such as Poland and Hungary, argued a 7 percent cap was too low, while others, such as Denmark and Belgium, said it was too high. Still others said the compromise should be accepted on pragmatic grounds. “There are some good victories for the environment compared to the current directive,” said Ed Davey, Britain’s energy and climate change secretary.