Frequently asked questions

23. The sustainability of biofuels is a popular topic of public debate. What can be said about ethanol’s sustainability today and in the future years?

When aiming at an increase in biofuels use, both domestic and world market biofuels production are available. In the near future years, the ethanol for blending with petrol will be imported to the EU primarily from non-EU regions, mostly from Brazil. Biofuels may be counted in the biofuels obligations only if they meet the EU biofuel sustainability criteria and the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

The principal rule is that biofuels may not be manufactured of raw materials harvested from regions of high biodiversity (conservation areas, primeval forests etc.) or from soils with high carbon concentrations (marches, wetlands, certain forest types). The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions achieved by the use of a biofuel must be of a certain minimum level. Currently, the minimum requirement is that a biofuel brings at least a 35% emission reduction as compared with fossil fuels. In the near future years, this requirement will be tightened.

The Renewable Energy Directive lists the emission reductions and life cycle emissions for the most typical biofuels. Brazilian sugar cane ethanol gives an emission reduction of over 70% in comparison with a fossil motor gasoline when all emissions over the entire chain of production are taken into account starting from raw material cultivation and production to refining, transportation and distribution.

The contribution of transportation in the "carbon balance" of biofuels is relatively small. The same applies to other imported goods transported to the EU as ocean freight on a cargo carrier: the share of the transportation in the product's total life cycle emissions is very small when calculated per product unit. More information on these calculation methods can be found in the EU Renewable Energy Directive and its background materials, as well as in the two Communications from the Commission published in summer 2010 (Official Journal 2010 C160/01 and C160/02).

As the biofuel obligation becomes more stringent in the future, Finland intends to increase her domestic biofuels production in order to benefit from the so called double credit mechanism provided in the Directive. This means that biofuels made out of certain raw materials will count double towards the goal of the biofuel obligation.

Double credit biofuels will be those manufactured of waste and residue materials, as well as non-food cellulose materials and lignocellulose materials. Bioethanol produced in Finland of waste and residue materials as well as biodiesel produced of logging waste meet the criteria for double credit biofuels. Their raw material may be waste, residue or other non-food cellulose and lignocellulose materials.

The life cycle emissions of this type of biofuels are as much as 80-90 % lower than those of fossil fuels. Increase of domestic biofuel production will improve Finland's energy self sufficiency and security of supply and decreases the country's dependence on fossil fuels.

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