World Bulletin/News Desk
The European Commission announced a major shift in biofuel policy on Monday, saying it plans to limit crop-based biofuels to 5 percent of transport fuel, after campaigners said existing rules take food out of people's mouths.
Record high global grain prices have intensified calls for changes in EU and U.S. biofuel policies, criticised for snatching away land that should be used for food.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger confirmed in a joint statement on Monday they wanted to cap the use of crop-based fuel.
"It is wrong to believe that we are pushing food-based biofuels," the commissioners said.
"In our upcoming proposal for new legislation, we do exactly the contrary: we limit them to the current consumption level, that is 5 percent up to 2020."
Reuters reported last week the European Commission would seek to impose a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels of 5 percent as part of a target to raise the share of renewable fuel in the transport mix to 10 percent by 2020.
The draft proposals, which are expected to be published in October, will need the approval of EU governments and lawmakers to become law.
"The Commission's message for post-2020 is that our clear preference is biofuels produced from non-food feedstocks, like waste or agricultural residues such as straw," Monday's statement from the commissioners said.
"These new types of biofuels are not in competition with food, nor do they require additional land. We are pushing biofuels that help us cutting substantial CO2-emissions, do not compete with food and are sustainable and green at the same time."
With the 10 percent target looking very difficult, energy ministers meeting informally on Monday in Cyprus, holder of the EU presidency, debated how biofuels could be developed sustainably.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Oettinger said increasing the use of biofuels depended on developing a new generation of sources. These second-generation biofuels are much more costly than those made from crops such as rapeseed and wheat.
"I think we agree that a higher figure for that mixture of biofuel beyond 5 percent can only be achieved from a second generation source, not from crops but agricultural waste and leftovers instead of from food crops," he told reporters.
The EU's biofuel goal to source 10 percent of road transport from renewable sources by the end of the decade is part of an overall aim to increase use of renewable sources and limit carbon emissions.
It also has a goal to draw 20 percent of the total energy mix from green energy.
Oettinger said the bloc was on track for the 20 percent goal by 2020, but subsidies were an issue and he urged a more harmonised EU approach.
"A major disadvantage has been that in some member states, often budgetary consolidation has led to abrupt changes," he said. "This is the opposite of protecting people's confidence so they can safely plan, and it frightens off investors."
Too much subsidy was as bad as sudden changes, and subsidies will have to dwindle as technology becomes more competitive, he said.
"What we have seen is that there has been too much support actually in some cases, more has been done to encourage than necessary, leading to free-rider effects," Oettinger said. (Editing by Rex Merrifield and Hugh Lawson)
The euro reached $1.1388 Wednesday, the highest level since a year earlier.
The IMF warned that "significant policy uncertainties imply larger-than-usual" risks to the US outlook on either side, since spending cuts could lower growth, while tax cuts could provide stimulus and expand the economy.
Now the VNO-NCW is calling for the Dutch parliament to reverse a 2015 decision to introduce a cap of 20 percent of annual pay on the bonuses which can be paid out to top managers in the banking industry.
The state-owned energy trading firm Lietuvos Duju Tiekimas said it signed the deal with the Texas company Cheniere Energy.
Adding to the upward pressure for oil is the crisis in the Middle East, where a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has fuelled concerns of possible conflict.
Bourses in both Paris and Frankfurt dipped after a report from data monitoring company IHS Markit showed Eurozone private sector business activity slowed sharply in June while staying in expansion mode.
Analysts said that while the downturn in the headline readings was disappointing, the economy continued to put in a strong performance.
Crude prices stabilised after diving more than two percent on Tuesday on increasing fears of a global supply glut, as continued production in the US and elsewhere offsets an OPEC output cut deal.
Move estimated to save company $1B in investment costs
However, most other regional markets struggled after Monday's healthy gains, despite being given a positive lead from Wall Street where the Dow and S&P 500 closed at fresh record highs.
The purchase in one fell swoop gives Amazon, which until now has operated almost entirely on the internet, a big presence in the brick-and-mortar world on Main Street, with more than 450 stores in the US, Canada and Britain.
"The Bank of Russia Board of Directors decided to cut the key rate to 9.00 percent per annum," the bank said in a statement. The cut follows a half-point decrease in late April.