IEEP Reports on EU Straw as Biofuel Feedstock

Posted Thursday, 31 May 2012, 13:58

Nathan Miller

The Institute for European Environmental Policy has released an assessment of potential straw supplies for the production of biofuels in the EU. Funded by Danish enzyme producer Novozyme, this report provides a critical summary of projections for future available volumes of straw from EU agricultural producers, concluding that straw accounts for approximately 40% (106 million tons) of the EU’s total available biomass for feedstock use in 2020 under a baseline projection. The report then delivers a breakdown of supply barriers that will likely hinder the efficient mobilization of this feedstock resource for the emerging biofuels industry.

IEEP outlines the current variable uses of straw throughout the EU, identifying animal bedding, soil-carbon improvement, vegetable farming, and mushroom production as competing markets for straw supplies. Additionally, a greater focus on electricity from biomass in the UK, Germany, Denmark, and other European countries could further limit available straw supplies for biofuels production. The study also finds that the existing markets for straw products have in many instances led to the formation of temporary complex supply chains for straw in response to economic circumstances. The authors cite an observed case of Bavarian straw producers responding to a straw shortage in Austria by building supply networks to take advantage of temporarily higher prices. Data from straw prices in the UK also seem to support the response capacity of straw suppliers to meet regional and extra-regional demands, provided that proper price signals are received. Such examples offer a more optimistic outlook on the potential for existing straw supply capacity to be harnessed for an expanded biofuels industry.

The IEEP concludes the report with a discussion of the EU policy context for straw usage, identifying the agricultural usefulness of straw for soil-carbon enrichment and advocating for environmental soil-carbon standards under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In addition to EU-level environmental standards, the IEEP concludes that EU Cohesion policies could also be employed as a platform for building greater networks of straw producers and for directing investment capital to demonstration-scale biofuel projects.

The full report can be found here: http://www.ieep.eu/assets/938/IEEP_Agricultural_residues_for_advanced_biofuels_May_2012.pdf