THE EU went ahead this week with proposals which could dash hopes of reviving an Irish sugar beet industry.
Plans to change the EU target for crop-based biofuels and bioliquids from a minimum 10% to a maximum 5% target have been confirmed by the European Commission.
European bioethanol producers reacted by threatening to sue the European Commission for "killing" their industry.
But the development seems to leave little scope for starting a new sugar industry in Ireland, which promoters hoped would producebetween 11m and 50m litres of ethanol per year for fuel usage.
Irish Bioenergy Association president Tom Bruton has claimed the EU proposal puts paid to talk about reviving the sugar beet industry.
Leading representatives from the EU biofuel industry have warned the European Commission thattheir proposal will seriously undermine future investments in theEU biofuel sector, which provides direct jobs for 100,000, after huge investments of €14 billion.
Yesterday, the Commission confirmed a strict new limit on the amount of food crops that canbe used to make fuel, thus halving the existing goal of a 10% share of renewables in EU transport by 2020.
But the proposal leaves fuel suppliers free to continue blending biodiesel made from rapeseed, palm oil and soybeans into fuels and claiming credit for cutting emissions, despite EU scientific studies showing that overall emissions from biodiesel are higher than from fossil fuel.
And it is proposed to incentivise investment in advanced second-generation fuels made, for example, from algae and wood residues.
Rob Vierhout, secretary general of EU bioethanol lobby ePURE said:
"What will happen is people will walk away from Europe and invest their money somewhere else, because there is no future for the biofuel industry in Europe anymore."
Negotiation on the proposals by EU member state governments and lawmakers could take up to two years.
Ireland’s sugar beet industry closed in 2006.
The Irish Sugar Beet Bio-Refinery Group and the Beet Ireland groups had put forward plans to revive the industry, producing sugar and ethanol and generating up to 5,000 jobs.