French to Boost Biofuel Output to Meet EU Target
Author: Sybille de La Hamaide
The European Commission set targets in 2003 that fuels should contain 5.75 percent of biofuels by the end of the decade in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut the European Union's dependence on fuel imports.
France announced last month it would meet the target with the launch of a new tender for companies to produce a further 950,000 tonnes of biofuel annually "for the years 2008-2010".
But the ministry official said this was in fact only an interim step focused on 2008, and that now more would be needed.
"The additional 950,000 tonnes announced last month were only for 2008. With this we won't meet the 5.75 percent target," the official told Reuters.
"We will therefore have to open new quotas for 2009 and 2010 in order to reach it."
Because biofuels are more expensive to produce than standard fuels, the French government grants tax rebates on fixed biofuel quotas to make them competitive.
DOUBTS ON ETHANOL NEEDS
Biofuels are divided mainly between ethanol, a combustible fuel made from sugar beet or cereals that can be blended with conventional fuel, and biodiesel mainly produced from rapeseed which can be blended with diesel.
The quota for 950,000 tonnes announced in May was split between 700,000 tonnes of biodiesel and 250,000 of ethanol.
A spokesman for the French biodiesel makers' umbrella group said it was not aware the new biodiesel quota was only for 2008.
He said France's total biodiesel commitments so far amounted to 1.65 million tonnes, equivalent to less than four percent of the planned diesel consumption in 2010.
The official said the ministry had not been able to unveil its entire production plans because it was still unclear how much ethanol would be needed by the end of the decade.
"It's ethanol that is the variable. We hope to lift these doubts within the next few months," the official said. "Then we'll announce the new biodiesel and ethanol agreements."
The EU target for 2010 implies using two million hectares of grain and oilseed for biofuel production in France and it would involve around 25,000 jobs, the ministry said.