17 Jan 2024, 13:25
Edgar Meza

German environment minister signals openness to using biofuels in agriculture

ARD / Die Welt

Germany's environment minister Steffi Lemke is moving away from her opposition to the use of biodiesel, at least in the agricultural sector, public broadcaster ARD reports. While there are no concrete plans yet, discussions are currently underway in the environment ministry to see if biofuels, a fuel made from vegetable oils, could be used by farmers as an alternative to diesel. “If we can reserve them for agriculture and use them there, then as environment minister I think that is a sensible solution,” the Green Party politician said. Agriculture minister Cem Özdemir had previously expressed support for the idea but has recently been cautious about the prospects for finding an agreement with the environment ministry on the issue. Lemke has likewise declined to comment on an exact timetable.

“The devil is in the details as to how such an arrangement for the agricultural sector, or even for watercraft, can succeed,” Lemke said. She was seeking to gradually ban biofuels by 2030 and remains opposed to biofuels for passenger cars, meaning an exception in the agricultural sector would represent a partial turnaround for her. Lemke also said she could imagine tax incentives for biofuels in agriculture, which could encourage farmers to convert their vehicles, as not all engines can operate on pure biodiesel. The planned cuts in agricultural sector subsidies, including the phase-out of diesel tax breaks, have led to massive country-wide farmer protests in Germany.

The German Farmers’ Association (DBV) and five bioenergy associations are also calling for more support for biofuels in agriculture and have written a letter of protest to the German Environment Agency (UBA), which also supports a biofuel ban, Welt reports. The DBV alleges that opposition to biofuels is based on one-sided and wrong assessments and calls for a “public correction of incorrect and outdated representations.”

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