The European Parliament has voted in favour of a 6% cap on the amount of crops that can be used to generate energy for transport.

biofuelMEPs, including local Lib Dem Phil Bennion, also voted for a separate 7.5% target for bio-ethanol production and for indirect land use change (ILUC) factors to be taken into account, but a final vote on biofuels was postponed.

Speaking after the vote at the plenary session in Strasbourg yesterday afternoon, Phil Bennion MEP said:
"This vote was a compromise for a cap to prevent unlimited expansion of biofuels, which can affect food production, but also not to undermine green energy investments made by industry at the behest of politicians in previous years.

"The most efficient kinds of bio-fuel do have a part to play in decarbonising our energy use – especially for transport. The only replacement for shipping or aircraft fuel is another kind of liquid fuel – cars and trains can be converted to electric power but ships and aircraft cannot. Long distance goods lorries on journeys which can't be switched to rail are also likely to remain diesel powered.

"It was important that Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) is taken into account when evaluating different biofuels and their potential for decarbonisation. Parliament voted for crop-specific ILUC to be taken account of in the Fuel Quality Directive after 2020.

"In the UK there are some very efficient and sustainable bio-ethanol plants, so I supported a Lib Dem amendment for a separate 7.5% target for bio-ethanol only, allowing these efficient bio-ethanol plants to continue in full production.

"This amendment just got through, so I then supported a vote to set the biofuel cap at 6%. This will give industry which has invested in green energy a fair chance to adapt to policy change without endangering food production.

"A sub-target of 2.5% will encourage investment in advanced 'second-generation' biofuel, which I think has potential. However, we are disappointed that MEPs voted to go to a second reading in the European Parliament rather than start immediate negotiations with the Council of Ministers. This runs the risk of delaying any final decision until after the next European Elections.

"The EU does have a continuing responsibility to foster efficient and sustainable food production, both within the EU and across the world, but that does not mean that all non-food crops are a bad thing. As a Lib Dem MEP I am determined to support a sustainable environment and food supply – the key is the best balance.

"It would be a mistake to prioritise food crops and ignore global warming, we need to take action on both fronts.

"That is why along with my Lib Dem ALDE colleagues I backed the compromise today, which just managed to get through."