Industry reacts to biofuel cuts plan

THE industry has been reacting to EU proposals to limit the global development of biofuels.

The NFU said the move was ‘staggeringly short sighted’, and demonstrated a failure to address the important issue of greenhouse gases (GHG).

NFU chief combinable crops adviser Guy Gagen said: “Incredibly, Oxfam and some green and development NGOs continue their involvement as interesting bedfellows with OPEC, oil and food multinationals and numerous climate change deniers by joining their chorus for an end to biofuel production.

“We have identified unexplained contradictions in many of these calls, especially when Europe imports around 84 per cent of its crude oil from abroad and the same NGOs demand an end to EU grain exports or drive direct land use change here while ignoring its indirect impact overseas.”

Mr Gagen said that at a time when fossil fuels costs are high, the cost of increasing dependency on fuel imports by removing biofuel mandates would be ‘both financially and environmentally damaging’.

But biofuels critics welcomed the European Commission’s plans.

Chief executive of the British Poultry Council (BPC), Peter Bradnock, said: “The wasteful use of food crops for biofuels instead of farming has a direct impact on food prices and already hard-pressed consumers.

“The BPC and its international partners has been calling on politicians worldwide to step in. It isn’t fair to ask low-income families without cars to pay more for food while subsidising biofuels.”

Mr Bradnock said politicians in the UK and EU must also ‘fight against the disastrous CAP reform proposals to take good agricultural land out of crop production when what the world needs is more not less food capacity’.

Friends of the Earth (FOTE) said the move was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough.

FOTE campaigner Kenneth Richter added: “Current EU proposals are a mess and fail to stop the production of those biofuels that create more climate-changing emissions than the petrol and diesel they are meant to replace.

“Damaging EU targets for biofuel-use in our cars must be scrapped - and replaced with policies that encourage cleaner vehicles that use less fuel and better public transport.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • The problem of biofuel feedstocks is nothing new, co-products never make it into discussion and if there had been a normal harvest the issue wouldn't even occur. Compared to biofuel use livestock feeding is a far bigger issue.
    What seems to be forgotten but neatly puts the issue into context was the fact we currently have no liquid fuel alternatives and we need liquid fuel. None of the oponents ever seem challenged by that question they seem to think that fossil fuel will last for ever.
    First generation biofuels are the first step, it requires huge investment in order to process, learn and move on. My fear yet again is the signal to investors that the EU simply makes policy up as it goes along.

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  • Low cost low carbon compressed Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) produced from 80% residual hazardous and non-hazardous wastes and contaminated and woody biomass; and 20% coal with CCS will solve all these problems.

    Biofuels are inherently low energy density, and hence costly to produce and use land. Industrial scale conversion of mixed biowates and coal at fossil industry standards of energy efficiency (76%) and cost effectiveness (45 p/therm) is a far better way forwards.

    As a side issue, I worked as an agricultural economist for BOCM Silcock in 1973/74 at the time when UK was abandoning its flexible Contracts for Difference (CfD) based agricultural market intervention scheme to stabilise long-run food prices in favour of CAP which is a fixed Feed in Tariff (FiT) scheme, with predictably economically unsatisfactory consequences.

    The current noisy debate about the unintended consequences of market distorting subsidies for biofuels is a different version of the 1973/74 UK economic crisis. Subsidising the uneconomic use of land to produce costly energy products is essentially stagflationary in its impact on the wider economy.

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  • The use of agricultural land for the production of fuel for cars and planes is inherently immoral. The conversion of wastes avoids this problem but such wastes need to be available locally and in quantity to be economic. We also need to recognise that the biggest contribution to solving the energy gap and reducing carbon emissions needs to be reduced energy use.

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