What is the need for alternative fuels

Frequently asked questions about alternative fuels

With the introduction of the greenhouse gas reduction quota (GHG quota) in the Federal Immission Control Act in 2015, those who are obliged to sell fuels must reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their fuels instead of an energetic minimum share of biofuels. They achieve this, for example, by adding biofuels. Certified palm oil is one of the crediting options for meeting the requirements.

Germany and the EU are representatives and defenders of a rules-based international order. A restriction on biofuels from certain raw materials must be WTO-compliant. In order to exclude certain raw materials from funding, the particular harmfulness of the specific raw material in comparison to other raw materials eligible for funding must be proven. Generally valid criteria have to be established against which all raw materials can be measured with regard to their harmfulness to biodiversity. So far this has not been the case. In this respect, it was not possible to exclude palm oil as a starting substrate for biofuels before the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Directive (RED II).

The RED II came into force at the end of 2018 after more than 2 years of negotiations. Among other things, it sets EU targets to increase the share of renewable energies in electricity, heating / cooling and fuels. However, the new directive also provides a legal framework for restricting the promotion of the energetic use of cultivated biomass in transport in general and, in particular, gradually excluding palm oil in the coming years.

Specifically, biofuels made from raw materials "with a high risk of indirect land use change (iLUC)" should be allowed to continue to be counted at most in the same amount as in 2019. For the time being, this only affects palm oil. From 2023 at the latest, the proportion of such raw materials with a high iLUC risk is to be gradually reduced. From 2030 at the latest, they may no longer be counted as biofuels in the renewable energy targets ("phase out"). This period is necessary so that importing and exporting countries and affected economic operators can adjust to the new legal situation.

However, a clear restriction also applies to biofuels from food and feed crops in general: according to RED II, their share must not exceed the status quo. In the key issues paper of the Climate Protection Program 2030, the federal government also affirmed that an expansion of the cultivation areas for bioenergy in Germany is out of the question due to land restrictions.

The lead Federal Environment Ministry is currently preparing the national implementation of RED II in the transport sector. The further development of the GHG quota as a central instrument includes, among other things, the treatment of biofuels from cultivated biomass, residual and waste materials, electricity for traffic, green hydrogen and electricity-based fuels. Another important element is the specific design of the phase-out of palm oil, how quickly the proportion should decrease over time and how residual and waste materials from palm oil production are to be dealt with. The deliberations within the federal government have not yet been concluded.