Crop Biotech Update

Standardization Seen as an Important Tool for International Commoditization of Biofuels

November 25, 2011
(full access to paper may require payment or subscription)

A policy paper by Humberto S. Brandi, Romeu J.Daroda, and Taynah L. Souzastaff, of the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (Inmetro) (Brazil) describes the importance of standardization for transforming biofuels into an international commodity. The paper is published in the journal, Clean Technology and Environmental Policy (URL above). Recent reports indicate a global shifting scenario toward more investments in renewable energy, and this has been steadily growing at a steady pace. Many countries have instituted national policies to stimulate the production and use of biofuels (particularly bioethanol and biodiesel as transport biofuels). Some biofuel-producing countries like Brazil, are also taking steps toward transforming biofuels into a ‘full-fledged world commodity". However, actions by some countries to protect their domestic markets are reported to be "distorting the international market of commodities."

Domestic standards and domestic conformity assessment procedures are generally set up to improve production and promote international trade relations. However, these domestic standards could also act as "unnecessary barriers to trade".   In the biofuels sector, for example, some domestic standards are based on lack of information, such as in the case of ethanol, where stringent standards for beverage ethanol (for human consumption) are also imposed on biofuel ethanol (which is not for human consumption). There is also a "problem of lack of confidence in the analyses conducted by the laboratories. In order to overcome/reduce these obstacles, the authors recommend "the definition and implementation of world wide harmonized technical standards"  for biofuel products. These technical standards within an international system of metrology, could serve as "reference for safety, quality and compatibility", and may also be a "pivotal instrument for international trade.

The standardization process is said to be based on the complementarities of three "spheres": (1) a regulatory agency (which defines parameters and limits), (2) a technical standardization forum (which defines the needed analytical methods), and (3) a national metrology institute (which provides confidence and guarantee on measurements). More information can be obtained from their policy paper (URL above).