Saturday, July 05, 2008

Biofuels: Rising Food Prices Force United Kingdom Government Rethink

Biofuels were being seen as the sustainable answer to both global warming and a means to take the sting out of rising fuel prices.

However, a report to be published on Monday 6 July 2008, is expected to force the Prime Minister Gordon Brown to rethink his support for using crops to keep Britain's cars and lorries running.

Unexpectedly rapidly rising world food prices look set to force Gordon Brown to take U-turn over the use of crops such as corn, rapeseed, palm and soya to produce fuel as an alternative to petrol and diesel.

A second and related report will also, the Independent Newspaper believes, force the UK government to revise its policies on food and the environment inevitably opening Mr Brown to the charge from environmental groups that he will be going soft on the Government's green agenda.

In the first report the Prime Minister will be been warned in a report by Professor Ed Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency, that the rush for bio-fuels has made a "significant" contribution to the soaring cost of food on the global markets. Corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from vegetable oil were being widely being seen as important ways of creating fuel and combating carbon emissions which contribute to global warming, until these recent food cost increases.

Substantially increased use of biofuel was an important plank in Mr Brown's, and European environmental strategy. The UK government introduced targets in April in Britain requiring all petrol and diesel to contain 2.5 per cent of bio-fuels with the intention of doubling it to 5 per cent by 2010.

The policy has also been further developed in Europe where the EU has been debating a 10 per cent target by 2020. Professor Gallagher's report will say the production of fuels from "biomass" - non-food crops - may be sustainable but it challenges the targets for producing fuel from other crops normally used for food.

Greenpeace said biofuels initially "looked good on paper" but the Gallagher review would conclude that the risks are too great to impose higher targets.

The campaign group has called for a moratorium on targets, subsidies and tax breaks for bio-fuel consumption until it was clear that these fuels could be produced from sustainable sources.

Oxfam said: "It is clear that any additional pressure on limited land resources has the potential to drive further agriculture clearance of forests or other habitats and to drive up food prices."

The vast majority of the European biodiesel was made from rapeseed oil, said Oxfam. "As we divert more and more rapeseed crop into fuel, European industry is buying increasing supplies of edible oils from overseas including palm oil.

A second report by the UK Cabinet Office strategy unit is intended to launch a debate over how Britain uses its land more effectively to produce more food.

Anaerobic Digestion News: Our view is that Anaerobic Digestion of waste biomass IS capable of producing sustainable biofuels which do combat climate change.

1 comment:

Steve Last said...

The Independent Newspaper article has a comments esction where some interesting points are being made, and such as the following:-

"... second generation Biofuels (cellulosic) will enable much more efficient fuel production/ha with hugely superior energy and carbon balances. Farmers will grow energy crops like Miscanthus on the poorer land, and environmentally integrate such crops, that require virtually no fertiliser or sprays, improve the soil structure and reduce carbon loss by not ploughing."

, and the Brazilians have their own angle on this, which is also worth reading, here.