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Europe Seeks To Drive Biofuel Use To New Levels

The EU and the USA are stepping up the development of alternate sources of energy, rather than continuing to rely on oil, which often has to imported from politically unstable countries such as Algeria, above.
by Michael Thurston
Brussels (AFP) Feb 08, 2006
The European Commission called Wednesday for new action to develop biofuels, warning that soaring oil prices and a recent Russian gas spat highlight the risks of relying on traditional power sources.

The European Union's executive arm urged EU governments to take measures to expand large-scale consumer use of alternative energy sources by developing "second generation" fuels more efficient and cheaper than those currently available.

"There has never been a better moment to push the case for biofuels," said EU Farm and Rural Development Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

"Crude oil prices remain high. We face stringent targets under the Kyoto Protocol. And the recent controversy over imports of Russian gas has underlined the importance of increasing Europes energy self-sufficiency," she added.

The EU drive comes days after US President George W. Bush warned in his State of the Union address that "America is addicted to oil," also focusing on biofuels as crucial for future energy needs.

The US leader, noting that oil is "often imported from unstable parts of the world," set a target of cutting US imports from the Middle East by 75 percent by 2025.

Crude oil prices have spiked back up to nearly 70 dollars a barrel in recent weeks, fueled by continuing unrest in Iraq, escalating tension over Iran and turmoil in the Middle East peace process.

Then the EU was alarmed last month when Russian giant Gazprom, which supplies 25 percent of Europe's gas, turned off the taps to Ukraine in a row over prices, with the immediate knock-on effect of cutting supplies to Europe.

That standoff was resolved after a few days, but the risk was underlined a short time later when supplies were also cut to Georgia and Moldova, both also former Soviet republics on the expanded EU's eastern flank.

Fischer Boel noted that European farmers could be harnessed to help develop biofuels, renewable sources of energy which can be made from agricultral produce including grain or crop waste.

"Raw materials for biofuel production also provide a potential new outlet for Europe's farmers, who have been freed by (EU subsidy) reform to become true entrepreneurs," she said.

In terms of new types of biofuel, the EU underlined the need to support research into second generation products such as ligno-cellulosic ethanol, Fischer-Tropsch biodiesel and bio-dimethyl ether (bio-DME).

In a strategy paper, the EU executive identified key aims including:

- stimulating demand from consumers

- boosting production. - increasing research and production into "second generation" fuels.

- increasing the range of raw materials.

- cutting greenhouse gases. - supporting developing countries.

EU development commissioner Louis Michel added that the widening use of biofuels also represents a potential opportunity for developing countries, notably those affected by EU sugar industry reform.

"Many developing countries are naturally well placed for the production of biofuel feedstocks. The expanding EU market for biofuels will provide them with new export possibilities," he said, citing bioethanol as a potential product.

Nearly a quarter of greenhouse gases produced in Europe come from vehicles, which are fueled almost exclusively by oil, the commission noted. "It is therefore essential to find ways of reducing emissions from transport."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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No Change In India Energy Policy
New Delhi (UPI) Feb 08, 2006
India's new business-friendly oil minister, Murli Deora, is unlikely to make any drastic changes to the country's energy policy, Indian energy analysts said Wednesday.

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