Renew On Line (UK) 68
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 168 July-Aug 2007
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
5. Biofuel progress
There should be a 5 year freeze on biofuels for vehicles until new more efficient second generation fuel crops are ready, according to George Monbiot writing in the Guardian March 26th: he claims that biodiesel from imported palm oil causes ‘10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel’ and quotes David Milibands assertion that palm oil plantations ‘are destroying 0.7% of the Malaysian rainforest each year’. Monbiot also warns that ‘Sugarcane producers are moving into rare scrubland habitats (the cerrado) in Brazil’. He wants ‘a moratorium on all targets and incentives for biofuels, until a second generation of fuels can be produced for less than it costs to make fuel from palm oil or sugar cane’.
In parallel, RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have warned that the Government’s dash for biofuels is ill thought out- the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RFTO) ‘lacks appropriate safeguards and could create more problems than it solves’ in terms of eco-impacts and net emissions. They called for a rethink, tighter sustainability criteria and for a ban on biofuels that did not reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50%
The government however took a much more moderate approach. Asked in the Commons about the impact of growing of bio-fuel crops in terms of deforestation and sustainable food policies, DEFRA Minister Ian Pearson commented: ‘Sustainability of production is one of the Government’s key priorities for biofuel development. That is why the Government are developing environmental reporting as an integral part of the renewable transport fuel obligation. This will require all obligated companies to report on the carbon savings and wider environmental impacts of their biofuels. The reports will include details of the previous use of the land on which the biofuel feedstocks were grown, and the impacts on biodiversity of growing those feedstocks. This will encourage companies to supply biofuels which deliver the maximum carbon savings with the minimum environmental impact. It will also ensure that we can monitor the impact of both imported and domestically-sourced biofuels. In the longer-term, the Government will be looking to move to a system that allows only biofuels which meet certain minimum sustainability standards to benefit from the RTFO. However, developing a verifiable and robust system that is compatible with World Trade Organisation requirements on preventing barriers to trade, will take time. We anticipate that biofuels in the UK will come from a mixture of home-grown and imported crops, recycled waste vegetable oils and tallow. While some biofuel crops are likely to replace UK food crops, there are significant quantities of oilseed rape and wheat that are currently exported which could be retained for domestic biofuel use, with no loss to food production. Biofuel alcrops can also be grown on set-aside land, that is, and which cannot be used for food crops. In the longer term, as technology improves, straw and wood could be used for biofuel production.’
So it's all systems go- although not very fast.
In response to a Parliamentary Question on how it was promoting biofuels,
Dr. Ladyman noted that the government ‘supports the development
and use of biofuels primarily through fuel duty incentives. We also
fund research into advanced biofuel production processes, including
a recent DTI-funded study into biofuel production from plant biomass
(details at www.dti.gov.uk/files/file35818.pdf) and a national non-food
crops centre project to determine the opportunities for producing synthetic
diesel & other materials from biomass to liquids technology (www.nnfcc.co.uk/funding/calls.cfm).
At EU level, the UK Government have been active in developing and defining
the Seventh Framework programme for research and development, which
includes significant support for research into improved and new types
of biofuels for transport. In the longer term, the Government are keen
to use the renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO) to promote the
development and use of those biofuels which offer the greatest environmental
benefits. The use of wastes, including plant wastes, has the potential
to offer significant climate change and sustainability benefits. We
are seeking views on the ways in which we might incentivise the environmental
benefits of biofuels as part of our consultation on the RTFO.’
* An extra £20m for research into green bioenergy has been announced
by the DTI & the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research
Council. Hopefully some of this may lead to more efficient biofuels.
|We are now offering to e-mail subscribers a PDF version of the complete Renew, instead of sending them the printed version, should they wish.|