Sunday, January 20, 2008

Biofuels may not be the answer

Controversial plans to make cars greener by using fuel made from crops and animal fat will be thrown into doubt this week when MPs are expected to question whether they will do more harm than good.

Biofuels have been hailed as a green alternative to oil by some, but in the US, where there are massive plants converting maize (corn), it has been criticised for making food more expensive and being environmentally unfriendly.

From April, petrol and diesel sold in the UK must have 2.5 per cent biofuels, drawn from sources such as tallow, rapeseed and sugar beet, rising to 5 per cent in two years' time. The EU wants to increase this to 10 per cent by 2020.

But the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is likely to call tomorrow for the schemes to be delayed because of fears that biofuels can have negative consequences. Criticisms include claims that producing some biofuels emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and that habitats such as tropical rainforests are being destroyed to plant the new crops. The report, 'Are Biofuels Sustainable?', is also thought to predict that rising food prices pushed up by competition for land could restrict growth in the industry.

The committee's report follows a separate study last week by the Royal Society calling for strict controls on how biofuels are grown. Stavros Dimas, the EU Environment Commissioner, has also admitted that it might have been premature to press ahead with biofuels, which were fiercely debated at the United Nation's Bali conference on climate change in December.

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