Research Handbooks in European Law series
Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Michael N. Cardwell
Chapter 9: European Union biofuels policy: Past, present and future?
Biofuels may be defined as fuels made from renewable feedstocks, such as rapeseed, corn and miscanthus, which can be substituted for petroleum-based fossil fuels. Most analyses of biofuels distinguish between conventional first generation biofuels derived primarily from food crops such as corn, rapeseed and sugar, second generation biofuels which are sourced from, inter alia, non-food biomass, the residues of food crops and dedicated energy crops such as miscanthus as well as short rotational coppice and third generation biofuels made from sources such as algae. While there has been much interest in so-called advanced biofuels made from lignocellulosic materials and algae, these are not yet commercially available. Biofuels, in principle at least, are carbon neutral in that ‘upon combustion they theoretically release into the atmosphere only that carbon which was sequestered during their growth as plants’. Biofuels can be mixed with petrol or diesel and most modern internal combustion engines can support such use. They have thus been attractive to policymakers as a way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transport and hence support efforts to combat climate change. This climate change link has been particularly prominent within EU policymaking circles such that the ‘cognitive framework’ of the biofuels policy community was that ‘GHG emissions [were painted] as the most important characteristic of biofuel production’.
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