Seanad debates

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Energy (Biofuel Obligation and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010: Committee Stage (Resumed).



Debate resumed on amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

" 'bioethanol' shall only be deemed to constitute a biofuel in the case of ethylalcohol ex CN (Combined nomenclature) sub-heading Taric code 2207 1000 with an alcohol content of at least 99 per cent volume the properties of which comply at least the requirements set in document EN 15376:2007 or any subsequent revisions to this document by the EU Committee for Standardisation CEN;".

- (Senator David Norris).

1:00 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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When we adjourned on the previous occasion, I was pointing out that the major deficiency in the Bill was the degree to which it did not specifically mandate or require a quota of domestic bio-fuel production. In other words, the legislation is not sufficiently tight in a requirement to fill, to the greatest degree possible, the 4% quota from domestic production.

I also bemoaned the fact that it was not proposed to introduce the required amendments on Report Stage. While the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, accepted the validity of our arguments and their merit, spirit and objective, he indicated it was not proposed to accept them on Report Stage and that amendments would be made in the Dáil. I will return to the reason it is imperative that they be accepted in the Seanad, namely, that Irish jobs may be at stake.

The 99% volume purity standard is the recommended standard used by the majority of European Union member states. Its purpose is to prevent tariff engineering and ensure states do not avoid import duties and taxation by producing bioethanol domestically or importing substandard bioethanol relative to the European standard. The objective of the amendment is to create a level playing pitch for domestic processors of bioethanol and domestic producers of raw material.

Similarly, the objective of my amendments Nos. 5, 12 and 13 is to highlight the importance of domestic production of raw materials for bio-fuel production, as well as domestic processing. My amendments would also require the ministerial review of the legislation to take cognisance of domestic production and processing. We would not have a difficulty if the Government were to table alternative amendments or change the wording slightly, provided they achieved the same objectives as this group of amendments. If the Minister proposes to table other amendments, I ask that he do so on Report Stage. I will explain the reasons.

The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, argued that we must remain in compliance with European Union and World Trade Organisation guidelines and, as such, that we could not unfairly restrict imports. The proposed amendments are fully consistent with EU trade guidelines. It is noteworthy that the requirements they set out have been implemented in many other EU member states. Industry representatives with whom my party has spoken indicate that the Minister of State's argument does not hold up, given that many member states have accepted standardised contents of bioethanol. Moreover, the cost of the proposals in terms of an increase in the price of petrol and diesel would be minimal, amounting to only 0.4 cent.

As to the contention that we must adopt the same position as the United Kingdom, I suspect it would have to follow suit should we adopt these proposals rather than the reverse because it imports a high proportion of the bio-fuels it uses. This argument is, therefore, unsound.

The CEO of Green Biofuels Ireland, in his lobbying, drew our attention to the fact that the Bill had been introduced later than intended. The Minister of State argued that acceptance of our amendments could further delay the legislation. If they are accepted on Report Stage in this House, the relevant statutory instruments could then be sent to the European Commission. We have reason to believe they would be approved quickly, thereby enabling the legislation to be enacted and implemented by 1 July. I gather the jobs of 22 people in County Wexford may be at stake if we delay the legislation unnecessarily. The way to avoid delaying the Bill is to accept the amendments on Report Stage, draw up the statutory instruments and submit them to the European Union.

During the previous debate on the Bill I outlined the basic tenets of the Fine Gael Party, namely, that we must support domestic production, ensure food production is not displaced by the production of raw materials for bio-fuels either in Ireland, where this is not an issue, or in Brazil and other countries. We must ensure agricultural production is not displaced in Brazil and elsewhere and rainforests are not cut down. The introduction of standardisation in Europe would assist in achieving these objectives.

I commend the amendments to the Minister. We would be pleased to accept any changes to our amendments should the Department believe they are necessary. I urge the Minister to accept the amendments on Report Stage to enable the Bill to be passed and the deadline of 1 July for its implementation to be met.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.