Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Kelly Backs Down On Biofuel Ban

A contradictory government-backed report on the use of biofuels has produced a predictably watered-down government response, which will do nothing to halt the UK rise in the use of biofuels, when we should be taking a world lead on the issue. 

The long-awaited Gallagher report, from a panel of government experts at the Renewable Fuels Agency, should have forced a review of UK targets for the use of biofuels in place of petrol and diesel. 

Instead, economic arguments crept into what should have been a scientific report, making it political. 

And that allowed transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, to fudge the issue by suggesting only caution and consultation.

Around the world, forests are being destroyed, cattle driven off the land and crops once grown for food now grown for corn, rapeseed, palm and soya. Here fields of corn and rapeseed are being grown for biofuels. 

But the Gallagher report rejected a moratorium on biofuels because "a moratorium will reduce the ability of the biofuels industry to invest in new technology and makes it significantly more difficult for the potential of biofuels to be realised."

Oxfam has said the rush to develop biofuels has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices. Latin American leaders, in Bolivia and Peru, have told the UN using land for biofuels was putting food out of reach of the poor.

Since April, all petrol and diesel in the UK has had to contain 2.5% of biofuels. 

The US, Brazil and the EU are the main players on the biofuel stage. About half of EU vegetable oils now go towards the production of biodiesel and plant-derived ethanol.

The rising use of biofuels both in the UK and in the world has been noted here on a number of occasions, with a warning that the government will do nothing on this issue.

Kelly's statement came on the day the World Bank president called for reform of biofuel policies in rich countries, urging them to grow more food instead and blaming biofuels for a 75% rise in food prices.

Biofuels are green gold and big business. For the moment, it seems, they're here to stay.

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