Policies and targets for biofuels have been set in several countries around the globe. The main drivers for the setting of such policies are potential contributions to energy security, climate change mitigation and rural development. Currently, at least 50 countries have mandated or promoted biofuels blending standards on the national level to displace oil in domestic transport supply. Most mandates require blending 10–15% ethanol with gasoline or blending 2–7% biodiesel with diesel fuel. In addition, recent targets define higher levels of envisaged biofuel use in various countries.
Ethanol policies have been implemented in Brazil since the mid-70s and today blending obligations for ethanol are up to 20-25% for gasoline. More recently, Brazil has introduced biodiesel blending targets of 2% in 2008 and 5% in 2013, similar to the EU’s. In order to reach these obligations, Brazilian federal and state governments grant tax reductions / exemptions.
The level of advantage varies on the basis of the size of the agro-producers and the level of development of each Brazilian region. In Brazil, 95% of the cars purchased in 2008 can run on either 100% ethanol or on the gasoline / ethanol blend. With recent high oil prices, most drivers are choosing to operate these vehicles mainly on ethanol. In 2006, the United States introduced mandatory standards and these were extended in 2007 under the EISA law. Blending requirements will reach 12.9 billion gallons in 2010 and 36 billion gallons by 2022 (of which more than half will be required to be advanced biofuels and about one-third cellulosic).
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Several years ago the European Union introduced a target for biofuels use equivalent to 2 % of the market share of motor fuel by 2005 (although it was not reached) and 5.75% by the end of 2010, while the target for renewable energy sources in transport for 2020 is now set at 10%. The current legislation also requires “sustainability criteria” favouring biofuels derived from waste, residues, non-food cellulosic material, and lignocellulosic material in order to prevent mass investment in potentially environmentally harmful biofuels.
The adoption of targets for the use of biofuels in road transport fuels is a key component of the European Union’s response to achieving its Kyoto targets of GHG emissions. In 2003 the European Union first set a target of 5.75% biofuels use in all road transport fuels by the end of 2010. The proposal to adopt a 10% target for a combination of first and second generation biofuels use in road transport fuels by 2020 was made in the Renewable Energy Roadmap (CEC, 2006) as part of an overall binding target for renewable energy to represent 20% of the total EU energy mix by the same date. On 23 April 2009, the European Union adopted the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) which includes a 10% binding target for renewable energy use in road transport fuels and also establishes the environmental sustainability criteria for biofuels consumed in the EU (CEC, 2008).
A minimum rate of GHG emission savings (35% in 2009 and rising over time to 50% in 2017), rules for calculating GHG impact, and restrictions on land where biofuels may be grown are part of the environmental sustainability scheme that biofuel production must adhere to under the RED. The revised Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), adopted at the same time as the RED, includes identical sustainability criteria and it targets a reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from fuels consumed in the EU by 6% by 2020.
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Australia (New South Wales and Queensland) and Canada are also mandating the use of biofuels, as are a number of OECD non-member countries.
For the future, it is crucial that policies foster innovation and support the most sustainable biofuels only, through a continuous monitoring and assessment of their effectiveness in reducing GHG emissions and in providing benefits for rural workers. Suitable land availability and potential influence of biofuel production on global food prices also need to be carefully monitored, taking into account all global food, fibre and energy needs for the growing world population. However, barriers to the commercial viability of biofuels shrink as technologies evolve and as prices of conventional fossil fuels remain high. Moreover, if well managed and coordinated with investments in infrastructures and agriculture, biofuels can provide an opportunity for increasing land productivity and creating economic development, in particular in rural areas.
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