The European Commission released a major proposal regarding greenhouse gas emissions and biofuels production using food stocks such as corn and soybeans.

The proposal would require refiners to report emissions associated with indirect land use changes, which typically refer to the clear-cutting of land to expand biofuels production. The proposal also would cap the use of food-based fuels at 5% of current fuel consumption in the European Union for transportation and increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions savings required for new biofuels production to 60% compared with traditional fossil fuel. According to the commissioners, the proposed legislation’s purpose would be to create incentives for the production of second-generation biofuels which would achieve greater emissions reductions than traditional ethanol and not compete with food.

The proposal now will go to the European Parliament and the European Council for approval.

Environmental groups are saying that the proposal takes a step in the right direction but essentially is deficient by not requiring companies to actually do anything to reduce indirect land use changes.

The US ethanol industry also is critical of the proposal, stating that the European Commission is fueling the food versus fuel debate. Ethanol groups also have long objected to the idea that biofuel incentives in the United States are causing indirect land use changes elsewhere. This is because US policy requires EPA to consider land use changes before allowing new feedstock pathways to be included for credit under the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

Some international non-governmental organizations are opposed to US policies such as the RFS because it encourages the production of corn-based ethanol. This year, the federal RFS requires that refiners blend 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol into the US fuel supply or purchase fuel credits.