With one vote, 33 against 32, the deputies voted on October 17 an amendment which should put an end to the exceptions which grant tax advantages on the use of palm and soybean oils, strongly linked to the deforestation of forests tropical.
The amendment carried by several groups, against the opinion of the general rapporteur, the deputy LaREM Laurent Saint Martin, concerns article 15 of the Finance Bill (PLF) devoted to the national biofuels policy. It puts an end to an exception granted by the government for the benefit of the Total group. He specifies that “products based on soybean oil and palm oil, including palm fatty acid distillates (PFAD), are no longer considered as biofuels”. This is a victory for the NGOs Canopée, Amis de la Terre, Greenpeace, WWF, Climate Action Network and Transport & Environment. They had challenged the deputies to this effect, with the help of a campaign in the press ( The world, Release and the Figaro). A victory greeted with caution because the text must pass the examination of the Senate and the second reading.
The government had renewed in article 15 the possibility of using the PFADs. “An exception linked to Total’s interests because it is one of the main palm oil-based products transformed into biofuel in the La Mède biorefinery, in Bouches-du-Rhône »Explains Sylvain Angerand, Canopée spokesperson. “It allows Total to continue to benefit from a valuable tax advantage and could even open up the market for aviation biofuels.»He adds.
The exclusion of palm oil-based products from the tax system for the incorporation of biofuels (1) had already been voted by MEPs in December 2018, for entry into force in January 2020. It had even been validated by the constitutionnal Council. But by a sleight of hand, the government had, by regulation, granted an exception for palm fatty acid distillates (PFAD). He had classified them as “residue” or “waste” and not as “co-product”, which it really is, explains the NGO Canopée.
An increase in the use of PFADs would inevitably result in an increase in deforestation. In 2017, the government recognized this risk in its National Strategy to Combat Imported Deforestation.
As we know, soybean oil also puts great pressure on ecosystems and forests. MEPs voted to exclude tax incentives for biofuels. The government for its part passed an amendment capping its use at 1% for 2021.
In France, soybean oil consumption has multiplied by 5 in five years, going from 128,000 liters in 2014 to 640,000 liters in 2019. “The figures for 2020 are not yet published but they should indicate an acceleration of this increase due to the substitution effect of crude palm oil, ”indicates Sylvain Angerand.
Most of the soybeans used in France come from imports. However, according to the report of the Forest Scientific and Technical Council, the expansion of soybean crops in South America, and particularly in Brazil, is leading to the conversion of ecosystems rich in carbon and biodiversity into monocultures. Since 2008, at least 8% of the expansion of soybean crops has come at the expense of these lands.
European citizens are aware of this. More than half of them (52%) want a ban on soybean oil, according to a YouGov poll on September 23 in seven European countries. They refuse that “taxpayers finance incorporation into fuelsof products that contribute to deforestation“.