Next July all petrol and diesel sold in Ireland will have to be made up of 4% biofuel.
This mandate came after Mr Ryan said the country cannot meet a 5.75% target set by the European Commission. However, he said the new measures will provide a secure and guaranteed market for biofuels made by domestic producers.
“That gives a real opportunity and incentive for farmers to sell into that market... We know what we can do here at home is sustainable and economic,” he said.
Ireland is one of the last country’s in Europe to introduce a biofuel obligation. And this represents a new strategy instead of the five- year €200m excise relief scheme set up in 2006.
The new law will not be enough to meet the 5.75% European Commission target but the Labour Party’s Liz McManus welcomed the reduced figure.
Last year, Mr Ryan said the 5.75% was no longer viable given rising food prices in developing countries due to the switch to fuel crops.
A Department of the Environment statement said this was only an indicative target and it remains committed to the demands placed on countries for bio- fuel use before 2020. The 4% requirement has not been universally welcomed.
Professor Jimmy Burke, head of Teagasc’s crop research centre, said the policy shift towards mandates is likely to kill off a number of small start-up companies.
He said these agricultural- based enterprises were helped establish production facilities in the belief they would continue to benefit from excise relief measures introduced in 2006.
As the 4% biofuel requirement will necessitate large- scale production, Mr Burke said small companies will not be able to compete with wholesale imports.
Yesterday, Mr Ryan said two thirds of our biofuel is imported but there will be strict requirements on how the fuel is produced, to prevent companies here being undercut by environmentally unsound operators. But he said Ireland could not adopt protectionist policies.
Ireland’s largest bio-fuel producer, Green Biofuels, welcomed the measures. Chief executive Nick Tierney said it will be good for production jobs. Its plant, which recycles oil used in food production, can double its 35 million-litre output.
Fine Gael energy spokes- man Simon Coveney supported the 4% mandate but said it is only worthwhile if it was sourced in Ireland: “If consumers are being asked to pay more for fuel with a biofuel content in an effort to reduce emissions, then that biofuel should be produced at home.
“Transporting large quantities of biofuel from South America or Africa resulting in a carbon footprint in transit makes a mockery of climate change policy.”