Environment and Climate

Biofuels and sustainability

Biofuels are essential for sustainable, environmentally friendly mobility. They make a country independent of fossil fuels and help save CO₂.

Since January 1, 2015, the biofuel and oil industry has been subject to fundamentally new rules. The previously applicable subsidy system for biofuels in Germany is being completely revamped. As a result of the new climate protection or greenhouse gas quota, the oil industry is now required by law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5 percent. The oil companies are using biofuels to achieve this goal. Biodiesel and bioethanol emit significantly less by way of greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. Adding biofuels to conventional fuel therefore results in an immediate reduction in CO2 emissions for the entire vehicle fleet.

There has been a long-running discussion on the sustainability of biofuels. In European and German legislation, biofuels are subject to tough regulations. Moreover, there are no comparable regulations, either for foodstuffs or for cosmetics raw materials. From the VDA’s perspective, however, these standards should be applied across the board. The German INRO initiative (“Initiative for the Sustainable Provision of Raw Materials for Biomass Use”) is a good example of how industries using biogenic raw materials comply with sustainability criteria.

The EU is planning to amend biofuels directives. This would put biofuels that are established in the market at a disadvantage. The European Commission still intends to take account of “indirect land use changes” (iLUC) in CO2 imputation. The assumption behind iLUC is that an area previously used for growing food or other biogenic raw materials is now cultivated with plants for producing biofuels. The field crop previously cultivated there, so a further assumption has it, is now grown on another parcel of land that was previously fallow or forested area. The CO2 emissions arising from the use of this new acreage is not imputed to the plants growing there but to the biofuels on the original field. It is thus apparent that assumptions are being made that are not scientifically robust and do not comply with international standards. They should not therefore serve to underpin political decisions.

The German automotive industry advocates the use of next-generation biofuels. Biofuels are produced from biological residues such as old wood, straw or other waste. No foodstuffs are used in Germany to produce biofuels. Energy crops are cultivated on only a single-digit percentage of arable land worldwide and only around 6 percent of the world’s cereal harvest goes to produce biofuels. It is thus clear that price increases and shortages cannot be caused by biofuels.

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