Trade in biofuels

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Information about international trade in biofuel feedstocks and products.





Ethanol and Biodiesel Import Duties
Country Ethanol (US$/L) Biodiesel
Australia $0.241
Brazil $0.701
Canada $0.501
EU $0.101 ad valorem duty of 6.5%2
Japan $01
New Zealand $01
United States $0.141










  • 4 December 2007, Bali, Indonesia (side event at United Nations Conference on Climate Change): Towards a Strategy for Sustainable Production and Trade of Bioenergy. Organised by ICTSD and in collaboration with IEA Bioenergy Task 40 and Stockholm Environment Institute.
    • From the description: "Given the divide between regions with the largest demand and those with the highest production potential, international trade in biofuels and feedstocks is expected to grow in the years to come. Several trade and policy issues arise in this context, relating to the removing of barriers to international trade and to the crafting of trade rules, but also to the broader implications for trade in agriculture and industrial products that are involved in the production and processing of biofuels....This event will bring together a panel of experts from intergovernmental organisations, government and policy research institutions to address this vast array of economic, social and environmental questions that arise as countries formulate their policies on biofuels."[2]



  • EU biofuel policy could defeat its environmental aims 9 April 2012 by Fredrik Erixon for New Staits Times: "Is it really in Europe's interest to provoke a trade war with emerging markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America over biofuels? Of course it is not. Yet open trade with these regions may become the first casualty when the European Union (EU) moves closer to restricting access to its markets for foreign producers of biofuels."
    • "At the centre of this emerging trade conflict is the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), a law with the noble ambition of substituting fossil fuels with biofuels, yet in a manner that espouses green protectionism in Europe."
    • " EU biofuel policy is generally prejudiced against foreign production. Production in Europe is both heavily subsidised and protected by tariffs, especially ethanol, with tariffs of up to 63 per cent. Total subsidies add up to between 25 and 35 per cent of the market price for the fuel. Unsurprisingly, biofuels consumption in the EU is heavily dependent on local production." [3]


  • RFS: It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Working, 11 October 2011 by Biofuels Digest: "The Renewable Fuel Standard is the key foundation policy supporting the commercial development of advanced biofuels."
    • "It is not working as fast as some would like, but given the current economic situation it is indeed working."
    • "Nevertheless, there is some impatience and disappointment that cellulosic biofuel production has not grown fast enough to meet the aggressive RFS goals. A new report from the National Academies on the RFS is stoking this sentiment."
    • "The National Academies report takes a good hard look at the challenges facing the cellulosic biofuel industry – primarily, the growing and harvesting of sufficient biomass resources and the formation of capital to construct new biorefineries."
    • "The large volume of the advanced biofuels mandate of the RFS permits a number of technologies, feedstocks and strategies to compete for market space, depending on their ability to achieve cost competitiveness and meet end-user needs."
    • "We need to follow a parallel path of commercialization and continued research so we can improve technology and the cost structure as we move forward with building modern biorefineries and creating a new biobased economy."[5]
  • Biofuels can be commercialized rapidly for military, says industry group, 4 October 2011 by "Advanced biofuels can be commercialized rapidly for military use, on military timelines, with adequate support and coordination of efforts by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Energy."
    • "That’s according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which yesterday submitted comments to the Air Force’s Request for Information on the commercial status and market for advanced drop-in biofuels."
    • "Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, stated: 'The U.S. military and the nation as a whole face a significant national security threat from U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy and ongoing price volatility.'"
    • "'Military use of advanced biofuels could in turn validate emerging technologies and unlock private investment in future advanced biofuels production for civilian markets.'"[6]
  • Mapping tools benefit biomass supply chain, 3 May 2011 by Biomass Magazine: "Harrison Pettit, the vice president of business development for Powerstock, has a multistep plan to create a biomass feedstock operation because, as he told a crowd at the 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo, 'This supply chain will not invent itself.'"
    • "The process includes taking hundreds of growers and forming them into one dedicated supply chain that includes grower relationships, field mapping and individuals who have their own preferences and practices, he said."
    • "Included in the multistep plan is to identify and profile the supply chain, model the feedstock shed at the lowest cost, execute a demonstration harvest, scale-up harvests that would meet an inventory level, build up the grower network and, finally, manage the operational risks and approaches."[7]
  • Renewable Fuels Agency closes, 25 March 2011 by "The agency tasked with regulating biofuels entering the UK market and encouraging their sustainability will close its doors for the last time next week."
    • "On Thursday, 31 March the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) will be dissolved as part of a wider review of arms-length government bodies. Its duties will be transferred to the Department for Transport."
    • "In its brief history, the Renewable Fuels Agency has been responsible for several achievements that went beyond good practice and set the scene for a more sustainable supply of biofuels."
    • "Above all, it has established a system allowing the provenance of fuels to be tracked from farm to fuel supplier."
    • "It has delivered real, demonstrable changes in the procurement policy of major oil companies leading to better environmental and social outcomes – many of the obligated suppliers’ annual sustainability reports outline how they have been influenced by the RTFO with some reporting real changes to their biofuel strategy in response to the regulation or conversations with the RFA."
    • "It has produced the figures that back up the assumption that there are good biofuels and bad biofuels – its regular reports cut through the background chatter and allow comparison of feedstocks based on facts rather than opinion."[8]
  • Feinstein introduces bill repealing VEETC for corn-based ethanol , 10 March 2011 by Oil Price Information Service: "In a move that she believes would save taxpayers $3 billion in the first six months of implementation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would repeal the 45ct/gal ethanol tax credit for corn-based ethanol and lower the 54ct/gal ethanol import tariff to match the tax credit."
    • "'Ethanol is the only industry that benefits from a triple crown of government intervention: its use is mandated by law, it is protected by tariffs and companies are paid by the federal government to use it,' said Feinstein. 'It's time we end this practice once and for all."
    • "The bill takes a different direction than the proposal introduced yesterday by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), which would immediately repeal the ethanol tax credit. Feinstein's bill (S.530), co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), would eliminate the ethanol tax credit by June 30 only for corn-based ethanol. According to the bill text, after June 30, the tax credit would only be available to ethanol which qualifies as an advanced biofuel as defined by section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act."
    • "Ethanol groups roundly criticized Feinstein's bill. 'This does nothing to help our nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil,' said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis."
    • "U.S. ethanol advocates have always described the 54ct/gal import tariff as essential to offset the U.S. ethanol tax incentive, otherwise foreign producers could bring in product and take advantage of the same tax incentive as U.S. producers. However, that description no longer jibes, as the tax credit was reduced in the 2008 farm bill from 51cts/gal to 45cts/gal, but the import tariff was kept at the same amount."[9]
  • Palm oil giant vows to spare most valuable Indonesian rainforest, 9 February 2011 by The Guardian: "Golden Agri-Resources Limited has committed itself to protecting forests and peatlands with a high level of biodiversity, or which provide major carbon sinks, as part of an agreement with conservation group the Forest Trust."
    • "However, the agreement announced on Wednesday will still leave GAR free to exploit other areas of forest, and land that is judged to be of lower conservation value."
    • "Scott Poynton, executive director of the Forest Trust, said 'It's about going to the root causes of deforestation – we have shown that the destruction of forests is anchored deeply in the supply chains of the products we consume in industrialised nations, and we are showing we can do something about that.'"
    • He said pressure from Nestlé, which last year drew up a set of sustainability guidelines and signalled that it would not accept palm oil from sources connected to deforestation, had been instrumental in bringing GAR to the table."
    • "Experts in Indonesia will be asked to judge whether GAR forests have "high conservation value" under guidance from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a coalition of the palm oil industry and conservation groups."[10]
  • Two-thirds of UK biofuel fails green standard, figures show, 27 January 2011 by the Guardian: "Less than one-third of the biofuel used on UK roads meets government environmental standards intended to protect water supplies, soil quality and carbon stocks, according to new figures."
    • "The Renewable Fuels Agency says that just 31% of the biofuel supplied under the government's initiative to use fuel from plants to help tackle climate change met its green standard. For the remaining 69% of the biofuel, suppliers could not say where it came from, or could not prove it was produced in a sustainable way, the figures show."
    • "The majority of UK biofuel is imported. Biodiesel from soy was the single biggest source (31%) in 2009/10, with a large increase in Argentinian soy compared to the previous year, something that Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter calls a 'huge cause for concern'."[12]


  • Tide turns against corn ethanol, 20 December 2010 by Jeff Tollefson: "Buffeted by the economic crisis and a drop in the oil price, US producers of corn ethanol are encountering increasing scepticism from the legislators on Capitol Hill even as producers of the 'greener' cellulose-derived ethanol struggle to move beyond basic research and development."
    • "The tax package brokered by US President Barack Obama... included a host of incentives for energy development. Among them was a one-year extension of a tax credit giving refiners nearly 12 cents of federal cash for every litre of corn ethanol they blend into gasoline. A tariff of more than 14 cents per litre on imported ethanol was also extended through 2011."
    • "These are shorter times than industry wanted, marking a victory for environmentalists and budget hawks who see the roughly US$6-billion-a-year benefit as wasteful spending on a mature industry. Critics say the corn ethanol credit eats up scarce federal resources and puts cellulosic ethanol at a competitive disadvantage."
    • "The mandated levels of biofuel production in the United States will increase to 53 billion litres in 2011 — about 8% of the country's total fuel consumption — and will ramp up to more than 136 billion litres by 2022. Around 90% of the biofuel will come from conventional corn ethanol next year, with the remainder coming from biodiesel and other "advanced biofuels". Last month, however, the US Environmental Protection Agency pulled back the 2011 requirement for cellulosic biofuels from 946 million to 25 million litres, citing delays in scaling up production."
  • Malaysia's once-vaunted biofuel industry grinds to halt, 6 September 2010 by AFP: "Malaysia's once-vaunted biofuel industry has seen production grind to a halt since a March announcement that the government's mandatory switch to the green energy will be delayed to June 2011."
    • "Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) figures show that the production of biodiesel, a mixture of diesel with five percent processed palm oil, dropped 99 percent from 12,640 tonnes in March to just 137 tonnes in July."
    • "Malaysian Biodiesel Association vice-president U.R. Unnithan said the country had the capacity to produce 2.6 million tonnes of biofuel annually but that demand had completely dried up."
    • "Unnithan said Malaysian biofuel cannot compete in international markets as many countries have protectionist measures and subsidies in place."[14]
  • Rival Ethanol Trade Groups Campaigning to Woo Senators, Clobber Each Other, 13 April 2010 by Greenwire/New York Times: "Two rival trade groups seeking congressional help for the ethanol industry launched advertising yesterday to promote themselves and bash one another."
    • "Growth Energy Inc., which represents U.S.-based corn ethanol producers, seeks to maintain supremacy at home, while the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, or UNICA, wants to tear down corn ethanol's benefits in order to grab a larger share of the U.S. market."
    • "Growth Energy wants an extension of tax credits as well as to maintain an import tariff against ethanol produced in other countries and to promote the construction of ethanol pipelines and blender pumps. UNICA seeks elimination of the import tariff and of domestic subsidies for biofuels."[15]
  • Participatory Market Mapping in the PISCES project in Kenya, 7 May 2010 by HEDON Household Energy Network: "The PISCES project is looking at ways of giving poor people easier access to cheap and renewable energy options, specifically focussing on the potential of biofuels."
    • "Markets matter to the rural poor. It is increasingly clear that in tackling rural poverty, market-related issues - including access to information, institutions, linkages and trade rules - are vital considerations. Failure to address these issues means that the benefits of other developments threaten to by-pass the rural poor."
    • This article includes links to a podcast on the mapping project as well as supporting documents.[16]
  • IFPRI Publishes Study on the EU Biofuels Mandate, by The International Food Policy Research Institute: "The report is one of four commissioned by the European Commission to assess the impacts of the 10% target for the use of renewable energy in road transport fuels by 2020."
    • "The study uses a global general equilibrium model, separately including numerous first generation ethanol and biodiesel feedstocks, co-generated products, farming techniques, as well as direct, and indirect land-use changes (ILUC) resulting from the mandated increase in consumption of biofuels. Additionally, as the model is global, it also considers different multi- and bilateral trade scenarios."
    • "The results indicate that there is ILUC associated with the EU mandate, but that the mandate will still result in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission savings of nearly 13 million tons over 20 years. Additionally, the authors find that the mandate will have only a negligible effect on food prices and, concerning biodiesel, even with ILUC taken into account, imported palm oil remains as efficient as European rapeseed."[17]
  • EU slaps duties on U.S. biodiesel imports: sources, 3 March 2009 by Reuters: "A key European Union trade panel approved on Tuesday temporary anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of biodiesel from the United States, sources with knowledge of the decision said."
    • "From March 13, U.S. firms exporting biodiesel into the EU will have to pay additional tariffs for an initial six months, ranging from 26 euros ($32.88) to 41 euros per 100 kg."
    • "The EU firms say exporters in the United States are involved in so-called 'splash and dash,' whereby they import cheaper biodiesel from countries such as Brazil and add less than 5 percent of U.S. mineral diesel so they can pick up the subsidy from Washington before exporting to Europe."[18]
  • Weak oil and imports turn EU biofuel boom to gloom, 24 February 2009 by Reuters: "European euphoria over biofuel has ended after slumping oil prices and cheap imports battered the sector last year, while the credit crisis has made the outlook even gloomier."
    • "European producers of biodiesel -- by far the main biofuel made in the bloc -- also blamed their troubles on cheap subsidized imports, mainly from the United States."
    • "The European Commission, the EU executive, plans next month to propose imposing anti-dumping duties on U.S. biodiesel, a measure that could provisionally take effect a month later, sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters last week."[19]
  • US and EU urged to cut biofuels, 7 July 2008, BBC World News: "World Bank President Robert Zoellick has called for reform of biofuel policies in rich countries, urging them to grow more food to feed the hungry."
  • Biofuels Battle: Tear Down The Brazilian Wall, 1 July 2008 in the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog: "Biofuels have few friends lately. But Brazil’s biofuel industry found a big one —- U.S. Senator Richard Lugar."
    • "Sen. Lugar thinks Brazilian ethanol -- made from sugarcane rather than corn -- could help lower U.S. gasoline prices, which have reached record levels. Unica, not surprisingly, thinks the same, and blames Washington’s $0.54 per gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol for American pain at the pump."


  • The Rising Trend of Green Protectionism: Biofuels and the European Union by ECIPE (European Centre for International Political Economy), 2012.
    • "This paper surveys and discusses the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in the European Union and its compatibility with EU obligations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). More particularly, it intends to shed light on the evolvement of policies in Europe to protect biofuels producers from foreign competition. While the effectiveness of traditional protective tools of trade policy – tariffs and subsidies – are diminishing, local producers have embraced the introduction of specific sustainability criteria that would have the effect of protecting incumbent market actors while increasing the cost for new foreign market entrants."
    • "Europe’s biofuels consumption is dominated by local supply. Imports play a growing yet small role. However, import is likely to grow in the near future as the cost of local production of biodiesel and ethanol are comparatively high. The local industry, however, has invested on the premise that demand for its production – especially of biodiesel – will continue to grow rapidly." [[21]
  • Global Trade and Environmental Impact Study of the EU Biofuels Mandate (PDF file), March 2010 by Al-Riffai, P., B. Dimaranan and D. Laborde for IFPRI. From the Executive Summary:
    • "The primary objective of this study is to analyse the impact of possible changes in EU biofuels trade policies on global agricultural production and the environmental performance of the EU biofuel policy as concretised in the [European Union's Renewable Energy Directive (RED)]. The study pays particular attention to the ILUC effects, and the associated emissions, of the main feedstocks used for first-generation biofuels production."
    • "...World cropland increases by 0.07%, showing that there is indeed indirect land use change associated with the EU biofuels mandate."
    • "Finally, considerable uncertainty remains regarding the impact of the sustainability criteria on biofuels markets. The role of certification and the emergence of differentiation in biofuels, feedstock crops and land prices, based on carbon content and the respect of sustainability criteria, require more empirical research."[22]

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