A European Parliament committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed biofuel target that would require less than 6 percent of all transportation fuels to come from food-based biofuels by 2020.

The 6 percent target represents a major reduction from the 10 percent mandate contemplated by EU lawmakers earlier this year, reported Reuters Wednesday.

Plans to set a biofuel target have stirred a fierce debate on whether biofuels have contributed to soaring global food prices, which critics say divert land to growing crops for fuels instead of food.

The committee's vote will set the stage for negotiations among the 27 European Union states leading to a vote on the legislation by the full parliament in October.

The EU, along with countries such as the United States, plans to implement biofuel targets as a way to reduce fossil-fuel consumption and meet carbon-emission reduction goals.

Such initiatives have drawn opposition as food prices shot up quickly in the past year. In the United States, a multiyear ethanol mandate passed last December has drawn loud grumblings from cattle ranchers and poultry producers, among others, who contend that their profit margins have declined sharply because of higher feed prices (see EPA Denied Texas Waiver).

In addition to rising food prices, critics say the world's forests, which play a critical role in absorbing carbon-dioxide emissions, will disappear at a fast clip as more farmers clear land to grow fuel crops.

The EU wants to adopt a biofuel consumption target to help it meet its goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.  After the furor over its proposed 10 percent biofuel target, lawmakers considered another proposal to cut the mandate to 4 percent by 2015 over the summer.

Besides settling on a new target, the EU also will have to decide whether to limit the amount of biofuels made from food, such as corn and soybeans, in favor of nonfood materials including woodchips and algae.

While EU lawmakers debate the biofuel target, U.S. lawmakers are considering an energy bill that includes extending investment-tax credits for renewable energy projects and allowing more offshore oil drilling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out of a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday to offer a preliminary plan meant to appease both sides of the aisle. But so far, it has drawn ire from both Republicans and Democrats.

The plan would increase funding for renewable energy such as wind andsolarpower by eliminating tax breaks for oil companies and collecting royalties from oil drilling.

The Democrats are working out the details of the proposal, which also could include promoting natural-gas vehicles and require utilities to offer a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources. Many states, including California, already have such requirements in place.

The plan would allow drilling 100 miles off the east coast of the country from Virginia to Georgia, and off Florida's western coast in the Gulf of Mexico. But each state's governor and legislator could change the limit to 50 miles.

House Democrats also are considering a program to provide $25 billion to $50 billion in loan guarantees to prompt the American auto industry to build more cars that run on electricity or other renewables. The three major American carmakers already are working on introducing more hybrid-electric cars within the next two years.

Pelosi hopes to get a vote on the proposal by Friday.

Also on Wednesday, New Zealand passed a bill to set up a carbon cap-and-trade program. The program, which sets emissions limits and allows companies to buy and sell carbon credits to meet the limits, will begin in 2009.