WBA news

2009 June 24

More to biomass than just fuel: ex-EU agriculture official

David Landes
editorial@worldbioenergy.org
“No one should think that we can just switch from an oil-based to a biomass-based economy right now”
Fischler doubts that first-generation biofuels will meet the EU’s goal of having biomass account for 10 percent of fuel consumption.

The former top agriculture official of the European Union (EU) sees great potential for bioenergy, but stressed that moving to an economy based on biomass is a long way off.

“No one should think that we can just switch from an oil-based to a biomass-based economy right now,” Franz Fischler told Deutsche Welle (DW).

Fischler served as the EU's commissioner for agriculture from 1999 to 2004, and now chairs the Eco-social Forum Austria for the Development of Bioenergy.

According to Fischler, it’s important to think broadly about biomass and bear in mind its other potential uses beyond fuel.

“It can, for example, replace metals or other raw materials - not just oil or gas,” he said, referring to biomass as a “renewable material”.

Fischler also clarified his stance on the ‘food-versus-fuel’ debate.

“[T]here's one thing that cannot be questioned: that feeding the world has to have a higher priority than producing or using biomass for energy purposes,” Fischler told DW.

“I feel that without a doubt, food production needs to take priority. But we shouldn't forget that there are also grain and other biomass products ill-suited to human consumption that we can use with a clear ethical conscience.”

Fischler doubts that first-generation biofuels will meet the EU’s goal of having biomass account for 10 percent of fuel consumption, admitting that targets may have to be revised depending on developments with second-generation biofuels.

Read the full article here