Beyond the “conventional v/s advanced biofuels” dilemma: sustainable biofuels should win!


A few days ago, I was listening to the speech of Vice-President Šefčovič’s at a high-level event in Brussels on biofuels. This was shortly after the release of the Energy Security package, and so the Commission’s main angle was diversification of supplies, in addition to decarbonisation of transport obviously, given the upcoming Communication in June.

The Vice-President started by setting the scene: transport counts for a third of the EU energy consumption, one fourth of emissions, the instability on the international oil market, etc. The bulk of his intervention was then about the way advanced biofuels can help solve these issues. Needless to say, it was disappointing to hear no mention of sustainable first generation biofuels such as ethanol. This showed that once again the Commission had given up on all first generation biofuels regardless of their differences; and sugarcane ethanol falls victim to this black/white distinction in biofuels. As time goes by and only a few months remain until the publication of the decarbonisation of transport – and later on the review of the Renewable Energy Directive – it is frustrating to see the Commission perpetuate this simplistic approach.

But let’s try and be optimistic. Mr Šefčovič did also say that “all main alternative fuel options must be pursued”. We hope that sugarcane ethanol will be given a chance to prove what it can do.

In the meantime, a few days ago the Commission launched a tender for a study on the ILUC impact of biofuels. The purpose of this study will be to gather the ‘best available scientific ILUC research evidence’ able to influence ILUC modelling results.

I’m sure most of you sadly thought: “OMG…ILUC is back!” (me included!!!). However, this may eventually help the identification of low ILUC risk biofuels ahead of the elaboration of further legislation. This may be a chance for sugarcane ethanol to finally differentiate itself from other first generation biofuels in the upcoming proposals to decarbonize transport!

There are still opportunities out there to get recognition for the potential of ethanol in Europe’s transport system. We’ll keep following these developments as they unfold…read us to know more!

Géraldine Kutas
Géraldine Kutas

A seasoned professional specializing in international trade policy, Géraldine Kutas leverages over a decade of experience to strengthen UNICA’s activities across the European Union, the United States and Asia. She has a deep expertise in biofuels and agricultural policies, coupled with extensive exposure to multilateral and regional trade negotiations in agriculture. Ms. Kutas is the author and co-author of several international publications on these topics.

Before joining UNICA, she was a researcher and a professor at the Groupe d’Economie Mondiale at Sciences Po(GEM), Paris, and coordinator of the European Biofuels Policy research programme (EBP). Ms. Kutas has also worked as a consultant at the Inter-American Bank of Development and for agro-business firms.

Ms. Kutas has a Ph.D. in International Economics from the Institut d’Etudes Poliques de Paris and a Master degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, Washington DC.