European oilseed and vegetable oil and meal groups voiced their opposition to European Commission plans to phase out conventional biofuels after 2020 at a high-level dinner debate in the European Parliament on 12 October, organised by the European Oilseed Alliance, the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL).

The organisations said conventional biofuels were vital to reduce the EU’s protein deficit in animal feed, decarbonise the transport sector and help countries meet climate goals.

Speaking at the debate, chair of Copa & Cogeca’s oilseeds working party, Arnaud Rousseau, said: “We are very concerned about the EU Commission’s proposal to phase-out sustainable conventional biofuels included in the EU Strategy on low emission mobility. Farmers are already up against exceptional challenges and taking away the additional revenue created from biodiesel production would be another blow for them and the economy at large. The biodiesel outlet also helps reduce oilseeds price volatility while safeguarding biodiversity”.

Copa & Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen added: “Biofuels not only help to decarbonise the transport sector and help countries meet climate goals, they also balance the commodity market and ensure good feed supplies for livestock as only a fraction of rapeseed or wheat is used to produce biodiesel or bioethanol.”

The remainder was a protein-rich by-product used for animal feed. He said for every litre of bioethanol produced, 1-1.2 kg of protein feed and 60% of rapeseed grain was turned into meal. This was an effective way to produce vegetable protein for feed and for the economy.

“The EU already imports 70% of its needs in soya meal cakes at a cost of €12bn/year. Through biofuels, growth and jobs in EU rural areas are enhanced and they are an important part of the bioeconomy,” Pesonen said.

“The Commission claims it wants to phase out EU conventional biofuels because of the alleged indirect effects of carbon dioxide emissions caused by deforestation and the conversion of peat land in non-EU countries. This is totally unacceptable. European farmers should not have to shoulder this problem.”

Pesonen said the EU needed to encourage the introduction of effective environmental legislation in order to prevent these land use changes.

The move also comes in the run up to reform of the EU renewable energy directive, which will be announced by the end of the year.