Biofuel in the European Union
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|Consumption 2005 (GWh)||Consumption 2006 (GWh)||Consumption 2007 (GWh)|
|8||Italy||2 059||1,732||1,732||0||1,621||1 621||0|
|*Total includes vegetable oils in Germany: 7309 GWh (2006) and 2018 GWh (2005) and biogas in Sweden: 225 GWh (2006) and 160 GWh (2005), n.a. = not available|
Definition and Criteria
Biofuels offer an alternative plant based solution to rising problems regarding geological fuel sources. Chemically biofuels are alcohols produced by fermenting raw materials from starch and sugars. One of the more prominent biofuels, Ethanol (verbioethanol), derived from corn is made of 95% grain deemed unfit for food production and use as animal feed. Other sources of biofuel such as bio methane and bio fertilizers are produced from unusable straw. The use of these products increases the energy yield per hectare of agricultural land by as much as 50%. Compared to petroleum this process leads to up to 80% savings in carbon dioxide production. Ethanol fuels can be used as a fuel substitute or additive in vehicles using combustion engines.
The European Union has its own subsidiary body that handles all energy related issues. It is the European Commission on Energy and they define biofuels as “liquid or gaseous transport fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol which are made from biomass”. They are considered a renewable alternative to fossil fuels in the transportation sector for the EU. If these fuels are used for electricity or heating they are considered bioliquids. According to the EU Commission on Energy biofuels “emit less CO2, contain no sulphur compounds, and are generally more efficient due to their higher energy density”. The goals of the EU are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce their dependency on other nations for fossil fuels. For this resource to be considered renewable the EU has strict sustainability standards for the production of and use of biofuels. The 3 main criteria for biofuels to be sustainable and allowed for use are
1. Biofuels must achieve greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% versus fossil fuels, which then rises to 50% in 2017, then rises again to 60% in 2018. The rising standards are only for new production plants. (The entire life cycle emissions of the fuel are taken into account in these savings which includes cultivation, processing, and transport.)
2. Biofuels must not be grown in areas that used to be carbon sinks (e.g. wetlands, forests).
3. Raw materials obtained from areas with high biodiversity, such as forests or grasslands, cannot be used to produce biofuels.
To ensure these standards are met by the companies that produce and cultivate biofuels, there are several ways that the EU may verify their compliance. One method is that these companies must participate in Voluntary Schemes. A scheme is an independent and external group or company that will verify whether a company is following the sustainability criteria for biofuels. The schemes are usually privately run but must be recognized as valid by the European Commission.
List of approved voluntary schemes:
- ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification)
- Bonsucro EU
- RTRS EU RED (Round Table on Responsible Soy EU RED)
- RSB EU RED (Roundtable of Sustainable Biofuels EU RED)
- 2BSvs (Biomass Biofuels voluntary scheme)
- Red Tractor (Red Tractor farm Assurance Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet Scheme)
- SQC (Scottish Quality Farm Assured Combinable Crops scheme)
- Red Cert
- HVO Renewable Diesel Scheme for Verification of Compliance with the RED sustainability criteria for biofuels
- Gafta Trade Assurance Scheme
- KZR INIG System
- Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops
- Universal Feed Assurance Scheme
The European Commission on Energy has criteria established on the use of biofuels for aviation in the EU. Emissions from the aviation sector of transportation account for 3% of total emissions in the EU. They have introduced the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath in 2011, which is their plan to have the aviation industry use more biofuels. They have partnered with several airlines (Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, and British Airways) and biofuel producers (Choren Industries, Neste Oils, Biomass Technology Group, and UOP) to achieve the goals set in the Flightpath. The European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath aims to get biofuels to the market faster through the production of more advanced production facilities, and to have the aviation industry use 2 million tonnes of biofuels by 2020. The Flightpath also includes how they plan to finance their goals. They will host workshops with financial institutions to try and receive potential funding. The EU also plans to facilitate purchase agreements between the aviation companies and biofuel producers.
Rules have also been established by the commission to address problem associated with Indirect Land Use Change. Biofuel production will usually take place on former cropland. Those crops will still be needed, so it’s possible that agricultural land will need to be increased by destroying forests or other natural areas. This process is considered indirect land use change since the increased production of biofuels will displace the production of other necessary crops, which may result in reduction of natural areas to account for the lost cropland, therefore negating all emission reductions from the production of biofuels. The EU Commission on Energy have introduced several new rules to address indirect land use change in 2015 in the form of amendments on the Renewable Energy Directive and Fuel Quality Directive. These amendments include:
- limiting the share of biofuels from crops grown on agricultural land that can be counted towards the 2020 renewable energy targets to 7%
- sets an indicative 0.5% target for advanced biofuels as a reference for national targets which will be set by EU countries in 2017
- harmonises the list of feedstocks for biofuels across the EU whose contribution would count double towards the 2020 target of 10% for renewable energy in transport
- requires that biofuels produced in new installations emit at least 60% fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels
- introduces stronger incentives for the use of renewable electricity in transport (by counting it more towards the 2020 target of 10% for renewable energy use in transport)
- includes a number of additional reporting obligations for the fuel providers, EU countries and the European Commission.
Germany ranks first in biofuel use in part because of the early implementation of such fuel sources. Nikolaus August Otto, a German engineer, was one of the first pioneers in biofuel use. His early prototypes of combustion engines ran on ethanol in the 1860. Additionally german inventor and mechanical engineer Rudolf Diesel designed his original diesel engine to run on peanut oil. However due to the discovery of large supplies of oil in the United States petroleum prices plummeted and further use of biofuels dropped because of the relative ease and cheap cost of petroleum fuels. As the oil industry continued to grow the start of World War II would force Germany to continue further research into alternatives for imported fuel due to lack of international relations. With the increased pressure for alternative fuel sources German inventors implemented the use of gasoline along with alcohol derived from potatoes. During this period the United Kingdom, who now ranks fifth in European biofuel use, also explored alternative fuel use as fuel was crucial for the war. The United Kingdom became the second country to discover the concept of mixing grain alcohol with petrol. However, with the end of war, times of peace lead to less implementation of these biofuels. A combination of cheap oil from the Persian Gulf and the Middle East and increased geopolitical peace would lead to less advancements in alternative fuel sources. Yet between 1973 and 1979 a fuel crisis due to geopolitical conflict would again revive the need for alternative fuels. The organization of the petroleum exporting countries, or OPEC, would make substantial cuts in exports to non OPEC nations. This would lead to severe increases in oil prices prompting Europe to renew it's search for biofuels. These rising prices of oil would continue into the twentieth century. With the new century came increased knowledge regarding the environmental impact fossil fuels have. This increase in environmental consciousness, prices, and interest in sustainability would lead to unprecedented innovation in the alternative fuel industry. Thus biofuels such as ethanol are used all over the world as an alternative fuel in internal combustion engines. While complete substitution is not yet common in Europe, countries like Germany have been using E10 fuel consisting of 10% ethanol since 2011. E10 fuels have replaced the previous E5 fuel, containing 5% ethanol. Although this may seem like a slight increase in ethanol use this progression reflects a more progressive Europe as improvements are being made based primarily upon environmentally conscious efforts, rather than geopolitical or economic pressures.
Current directives that encompass biofuel usage in the EU include
- ILUC Directive - 2015
- RED (Renewable energy directive) 2009
- FQD (Fuel Quality Directive) 2009
- RED II – In revision
Legislative procedure in Europe currently involves a proposal by the European commission; followed by a process of up to 3 readings and amendments through the European Parliament, it’s committees and the Council of the European Union. This results in discussion and a series of revised documents that can then be voted in parliament. All member states of the European Union are the bound by such legislation and required to follow it. Legislation encompassing the use of biofuels in Europe consists of several energy/climate policy documents including the Indirect Land Usage Change (ILUC) Directive of 2015, The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) of 2009, and the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) of 2009. Proposals in 2016 were made for an improved Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), as part of the Green Energy Package, in which its negotiating mandate should be agreed upon by 2018 by the European Parliament. This will be addressed in later section Proposals RED II. The EU has played a large role in instrumenting the use of biofuels in member states, however has also aimed, to some extent, to mitigate the potential negative impacts of biofuel production.
Current EU legislation as approved by the European parliament in 2008 focuses on visions for 2020. Legislative targets involving the use of biofuels are covered majorly in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which aims to source 10% of energy in transport sectora from renewables by 2020. Further goals include a 20% increase in renewable energy consumption, a 20% increase in energy efficiency, no biofuel feedstock sourced from carbon rich land, compliance with environment and social sustainability criteria of differing countries exporting fuels as well as reduce in GHG lifecycle emissions of transport fuels by 6%. Targets stated in the Indirect Land Usage Change directive (ILUC) compliment the RED act, and relate to biofuel usage in the EU. These targets include accounting for GHG emissions caused from land usage change as well as solely biofuel usage, limiting the share of biofuel crops that can be grown on agricultural land as well as includes a number of reporting/ethical obligations for fuel providers. The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) was revised in 2011 to act in harmony with these two legislations, introducing laws on green house gas intensities from fuels used in transport and machinery, and reducing them by 6% by 2020.
RED II Proposals
On January 16, 2018 The European parliament endorsed proposals for a legislative Renewable Energy Directive II, which aims to aid in reaching goals for the 2030 EU Climate and Energy Framework. Key targets involved in legislation include:
· A 35% increase in energy efficiency
· Minimum 35% share of renewable sources in total final energy consumption
· 12% of renewable energy in transport
· Ban of palm oil by 2021
An end to the use of crop based biofuels by 2030 and the use of biomass for electricity production was also endorsed by the European Parliament committee, however by a smaller majority. Currently the European Parliament committee and the Industry, Research and Energy committee have voted in agreements of this new RED II legislation however a full European Parliamentary vote in the plenary is now needed.
Criticisms in Legislation
There is general awareness that the current EU policy has lead to the increased use of conventional biofuels, coming from feedstock and food crops, which in effect compromises agricultural space. The current EU legislation has therefore been criticized of accentuating the negative side effects that follow an increase in first generation biofuel consumption, and fail to successfully address these issues. In Tanzania for example, Dutch company BioShape compromised the land and deprived 4 communities of living space, in order to supply 'green' energy to Dutch and Belgian markets. Operations at the far end of supply chains of such European biofuel producers have also shown to engage in abusive practices and ill treat communities. In Sumatra Indonesia, a supply company of Wilmar International obtained concession of large amounts of land originally put aside by the government for community use, and violently prevented community access to it, in attempts to maximize profits.
The adoption of non-land based feedstock or "advanced biofuels" derived from wastes and bacteria has proven to be a more sustainable solution than conventional biofuels. However proposals of the revised RED II target to phase out conventional biofuels has received many criticisms; “miraculously relying on a successful transition to advanced biofuels” has not been backed by science or logic according to former Irish minister for environment, Dick Roche. The infrastructure and technologies are not yet established to be able to perform such processes efficiently, and a sudden removal of biofuels could lead to drastic pressure and overuse of other fuel sources. Criticisms from organisations such as Oxfam and WWF Europe also revolve around cutting the use of palm oil in biofuels and the side effects on these industries. Arguments include ruining livelihoods of those who rely on palm oil industries for survival in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as allowing other powers like china to dominate and increase palm oil imports to compensate.
Further criticisms revolve around the post-Paris sustainable development goals and the pro-biofuel movement hindering the ability of member states to reach these SDG’s. The 70,000 km2 of agricultural land used to produce biofuels in Europe in 2008 could have been used to feed 127 million people for a whole year, contributing to the 'end hunger and poverty' sustainable development goal. "Policies that subsidize or mandate food based biofuel production or consumption drive up food prices and multiply price shocks in agricultural markets". Further more, on average, food-based crops emit more than 50% more greenhouse gasses than fossil fuels, resulting in an increase in transport emissions in 2020 rather than a decrease. If the European Union is serious about reaching climate targets and reducing emission, much larger and drastic changes are needed to ensure the use of true sustainable alternatives.
Current Legislation and Biofuel Targets in Member States
The legislation highlighted in the chart below, transposed the requirements of the RED, FQD, or both into the policies of each member country in order to comply with EU regulations. In some countries, double counting is allowed for biofuels made from select materials such as waste, non-food cellulosic materials, and others. Materials that qualify for double counting differ between countries. Many EU countries have minimum RES targets and minimum overall biofuel targets. RES stands for renewable energy sources. The countries that do not have any minimum targets are Estonia, Germany, Latvia, and Sweden.
|Country||Legislation||Double Counting||Minimum RES Target in Petrol (2016)||Minimum RES Target in Diesel (2016)||Minimum Overall Biofuel Target (2016)|
|Austria||Ordinance BGBL.II Nr. 250/2010, Act BGBL.I Nr. 75/2011, Energieträgern, Act BGBL/II Nr. 398/2012||Yes*||3.4%||6.3%||5.75%|
|Belgium||Arrêté royal établissant des normes de produits pour les biocarburants, Law of 17 July 2013||Yes*||4%||6%||-|
|Bulgaria||Renewable Energy Sources Act (2011), Ordinance of liquid fuel quality (2011)||No||7%||6%||-|
|Croatia||Energy Act, Act on Energy Activities Regulation, Air Protection Act, Regulation on liquid fuels quality, Act on Biofuels for Transport||Unknown||-||-||5.6%|
|Cyprus||Act N112 (I)/2013, Law N11 (I)/2013||Yes*||-||-||2.4%|
|Czech Republic||Act No. 201/2012 Coll. on Air Protection, Act No. 180/2005 Coll. on the promotion of electricity production from renewable energy sources, Government Regulation No. 351/2012 Coll.||No||4.1%||6%||-|
|Denmark||Executive Order No. 1403 of 15/12/2009, Act No. 468 of 12/06/2009, Act No. 1607 of 22/12/2010, Executive Order No. 1639 of 16/12/2010, Executive Order No. 843 of 07/07/2011, LBK nr. 674 of 21/06/2011, Act No. 1498 of 23/12/2014||Yes*||-||-||5.75%|
|Estonia||Order No. 452, Amendments to Act No. 153||Unknown||-||-||-|
|Finland||Act on Biofuels and Bioliquids (393/2013), Act on Promotion of Biofuels in Transport (446/2007), Act on Liquid Fuels Excise Duty (29 December 1994/1472)||Yes*||-||-||10%|
|France||Ordinance 2011-1105 of 14 Sept. 2011, Decree 2011-1468 of 9 Nov. 2011, Arrêté of 23 Nov. 2011||Yes*||7%||7.7%||-|
|Germany||BlmSchG, Biokraft-NachV, 10. BlmSchV||No||-||-||-|
|Greece||Article 1 of L.3851/2010, L.4062/2012 unit C, OG A'70, 316/2010 Decision of the Chemical Supreme Council (OG B' 501/2012)||Yes*||-||7%||-|
|Hungary||Act CXVII of 2010, Act XXIX of 2011, Government Decree 343/2010 (XII.28), Decree No. 36/2010 (XII.31), Decree No. 30/2011 (VI.28), Decree No. 1/2012 (I.20), Government Decree No. 309/2013 (VIII.16), Decree 53/2014 (XII.13)||Yes*||-||-||4.9%|
|Ireland||S.I. No. 147/2011, S.I. No. 148/2011, Energy (Biofuel Obligation and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010, S.I. No. 33/2012||Yes*||-||-||6%|
|Italy||Legislative Decree No. 28 of March 3, 2011, Legislative Decree No. 55 of March 31, 2011, "Destination Italia Law" No. 145 of 23 December 2013, Decreto 10 Ottobre 2014||Yes*||-||-||5.5%|
|Latvia||The amendments to the Energy Law (22 September 2011), Cabinet Regulation No. 545, Cabinet Regulation No. 772, Cabinet Regulation No. 332||No||-||-||-|
|Lithuania||Act on Use of Biofuels n. 2-83 (2011), Renewable Energy Law section 7, Decree No. 1-348/D1-1014/3-742||No||5%||7%||-|
|Luxembourg||Memorial A n°228 du 21.12.2010, Grand Ducal Regulation of 27 February 2011, Amendements gouvernementaux au projet de règlement grand-ducal||Unknown||-||-||5.15%|
|Malta||Biofuels (Sustainability Criteria) Regulation 2010 (LN552/10), The Promotion of Energy from Renewable Sources Regulations 2010 (LN538/10), Biofuels and Bioliquids Markets Regulations 2012 (LN85/2012), Quality of Fuel Regulations 2008 (LN44/08), Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fuels Regulations 2010 (LN556/10)||Yes*||-||-||6.5%|
|The Netherlands||Decree on Renewable Energy in Transport, Regulation No. BJZ2011044006, Law of 24 March 2011, Law of 26 September 2014, Decree on Renewable Energy in Transport 2015, Regulation No. lens/BSK-2014/259021, Regulation No. BJZ2011043268, Decree on Fuel Pollution||Yes*||-||-||7%|
|Poland||Act No. 984/2013, Act No. 478/2015, Act No. 457/2014, Act No. 151/2015, Act No. 1088/2014||No||-||-||7.1%|
|Portugal||Decree-Law No. 117/2010 of 25 October 2010, Decree-Law No. 142/2010 of 31 December 2010, Ordinance No. 8/2012 of 4 January 2012, Decree-Law No. 6/2012 of 17 January 2012||Yes*||2.5%||-||7.5%|
|Romania||Law 139/2010, Decision 935/2011, Decision 918, 2012||Yes*||4.5%||6.5%||-|
|Slovakia||Act No. 136/2011, Decree No. 271/2011, Act No. 309/2009||Yes*||4.6%||6.9%||5.5%|
|Slovenia||Regulation 38/2012, Regulation 74/2011||Unknown||-||-||7.5%|
|Spain||Sustainable Economy Law 2/2011 of 4 March, Royal Decree 1597/2011 of 4 November, Royal Decree 1088/2010||Yes*||-||-||4.3%|
|Sweden||The law Lag (2010:598), The Fuel Regulation of 1 May 2011||No||-||-||-|
|United Kingdom||Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources Regulations 2011 No. 243, Renewables Obligation (amendment) Order 2011 No. 984, RTFO (Amendment) Order 2013 No. 816, Motor Fuel (Road Vehicle and Mobile Machinery) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Regulations 2012 No. 3030||Yes*||-||-||4.75%|
*For select materials
Debates Regarding the Use of Biofuels
The debate within the EU surrounding biofuels ‘has long been seen as a battle between politicians intent on finding a viable alternative to fossil fuels and campaign groups that claim the creation of biofuels creates potential environmental damage, cuts into food production, and may be of limited effect in tackling climate change’. The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive committed the EU to generating 20% of its energy mix from renewable sources, while capping the share of biofuels used in the transport sector at 7%. This Directive intended to compromise between the two sides of the argument surrounding the use of biofuels. ‘Analysts say that a couple of years ago biofuels looked like the perfect solution for the EU. But the longer-term impact on food prices, deforestation and environment prompted a rethink’. There many dimensions to this rethink. The most prominent are the economic opportunity of biofuel usage and green energy, the potential effect on food prices and availability using biofuel may have, and the degree to which biofuel use could benefit the environment.
The EU has been debating whether it should increase its lowering emissions target to above 20% by 2020. There is a divide in the EU between "those who see climate-change policy as detrimental to growth and those seeing it as beneficial to growth". Many member states[which?] have also been internally divided by ministries in this regard. Step-up negotiations have formed a pattern where EU states attempt to reach a decision by an external event, and this is quickly rejected by a coalition led by Poland, including Italy and some new member states. But member states cannot always be treated as unified actors because in several instances the positions of various ministries from the same government diverged. Debates in the EU about whether or not green technologies are economically beneficial affect the way in which biofuels are seen. The support for biofuels comes from the side of the EU which considers green technology to be economically beneficial. However biofuels are more controversial than some other renewable technologies, like wind power or solar power.
There can be economic benefits from the use of biofuels. They are said to be the cheapest potential sources of fuel available in the world. Additionally, "the production of crop-based biofuels in Europe generates at least 6.6 billion euros in direct revenue for farmers per year". But "'beside Europe's changing regulatory structure, farmers and ethanol producers are concerned by the potential for unfair competition from South America once the EU closes its trade deal with the continent's Mercosur trading bloc'. Brazil is a prominent member of Mercosur, and is pushing for the EU to accept large quotas for ethanol imports. This would threaten the economic benefits that farmers in the EU would stand to gain from biofuel consumption. Martin Merrild, the outgoing president of the association of European farmers' unions COPA believes ‘any such deal would expose EU farmers to unacceptable and unfair competition'". "Free trade is very important for farmers", Merrild said. "But we cannot accept double standards. There will never be fair competition between the EU and Latin America as they do not produce under the same conditions or meet the same standards".
Biofuels are carbon neutral, renewable, recyclable and a cleaner energy source than fossil fuels. Another advantage to biofuel use is sovereignty, which is especially relevant to the EU. The materials needed for producing biofuels are widely available all around the world so communities and countries can potentially rely on their own resources. This marks a change from fossil fuels which are only available in certain areas of the world, so nations relying on this energy are dependent upon foreign energy. Moving away from fossil fuels would mean the EU could be more self-reliant when it comes to energy sources, and emissions from transporting fuel could be reduced too.
But biofuels are also increasing greenhouse gas emissions through a phenomenon known as indirect land use change, as biofuels displace food production and farmers are forced to reclaim land from carbon-rich ecosystems such as forests and peatlands. Old growth trees act as carbon sinks, when farmers clear those forests this releases the carbon that was locked up in those large trees. But not all biofuels are equal in their impact. Second-generation biofuels do not displace food production or cause more greenhouse gas emissions. To address this issue in November 2016 the EU revised its renewable energy directive, which now calls for a complete ban on first-generation biofuels. Fuels made from oils such as palm oil and soy oil are being especially targeted. The revised Renewable Energy Directive covers the period 2021 to 2030, and also ‘calls for a further increase in the share of renewable energy in the EU’s mix to at least 27% by 2030. At the same time, it aims to cut the use of crop-based biofuels to 3.8% of transport fuel and shift the market towards’ secondary biofuel sources. There are also debates around converting land from food to biofuels. This could drive up food prices and threaten food security. In an age of population growth and water shortage this is very dangerous.
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