Biofuel industry 'can be sustainable'
APRIL 18, 2008: NFU president Peter Kendall has joined the fray in the biofuels debate by saying a British biofuel industry can be sustainable, self-sufficient and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There have been claims that biofuels are environmentally unsustainable and damaging to developing world economies, but Mr Kendall told farmers they hold the key to a sustainable and prosperous industry.“In the UK we can produce all of the biodiesel and bioethanol needed,” he said.New Government regulation that came into force this week requires all fuel companies to source 2.5 per cent of their fuel from renewable sources this year.The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) will rise to 5 per cent by 2010 and European leaders are considering a 10 per cent target for 2020.The targets are designed by the Government to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions.National press, senior politicians and high profile non-governmental organisations have rounded on the targets as irresponsible, but Mr Kendall said that if biofuels are produced to a ‘British model’ they can yield genuine greenhouse gas savings.“People can use biofuels produced to the British model with a clear conscience, knowing they are doing their bit for the environment,” said Mr Kendall.British-grown and processed biofuels can achieve savings of up to 64 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions compared with petrol or diesel, he claimed.Proponents also argue that the production process can yield as much high protein animal feed as it does bioethanol and biodiesel.Already the RTFO has encouraged millions of pounds of investment into a home-grown bioethanol industry.Ensus are leading the way with its biorefinery, set to be the biggest in Europe, due for completion on Teesside in 2009.Ensus chief executive officer Alwyn Hughes said he would ‘love’ UK farmers to supply the refinery with its feedstock.“There is an exportable surplus in the UK that would more than make up our requirement of 1.1 million tonnes of wheat a year,” he said.The domestic biodiesel industry faces a rockier ride with stiff competition from heavily subsidised US diesel and high rapeseed oil prices making imported materials more cost effective.However, a spokesman from Britain’s largest biodiesel producer, Greenergy, said the UK was its favoured market place.“When the economics get going there is so much potential to work with UK farmers. Rapeseed oil would be our preferred feedstock,” she said.Concerns that food prices will rocket if food is used for fuel and that poor countries will face the consequences have been knocked back as naïve.“It is the world’s demand for food that is driving prices up”, said Mr Kendall.Europe’s Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel said: “European farmers have been waiting for prices to stop declining in real terms for two decades or more. And higher prices can be good news for the between 70-80 per cent of the world’s poorest people who live in rural areas and rely on farming for their livelihood.”