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EU looks set to cap use of food-based biofuels

The European Commission has come up with draft legislation that would lead to a reduction in the use of food-based biofuels in the 27-member bloc. The move follows vociferous protests by environmental pressure groups.

The European Union executive on Wednesday presented a draft bill on the capping of food-based biofuels in the bloc.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Günther Öttinger confirmed their resolve to reduce the use of crop-based fuel over the next eight years. They want the 27 member countries of the bloc to limit such biofuels to 5.0 percent of transport fuel by 2020 after campaigners insisted that existing regulations were taking food out of poorer people's mouths.

"In future, biofuels will contribute more to reducing harmful greenhouse emissions and import costs," Öttinger said in a statement.

Switching to alternatives

Brussels insisted that the goal to source 10 percent of road transport from renewable sources by the end of the decade could still be upheld. "The Commission's message is that our clear preference is biofuels produced from non-food feedstocks such as waste, straw or other agricultural residues," the commissioners explained.

They added that those second-generation biofuels were not in competition with food and required no additional land.

But while the announcement to cap food-based biofuels was welcomed in principle by environmentalists and development aid workers, they felt that the proposals did not go far enough. "We cannot continue to burn food in our petrol tanks while poor families go hungry," said Natalia Alonso from Oxfam's EU office.

The draft bill in question will still need the approval of EU governments and legislators to become law.

hg/jr (Reuters, dapd)