Nearly a year after the Government announced its policy for 5% of all road fuel to come from renewable resources, a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee said the approach was piecemeal, lacking in ambition, lagging behind other European nations and needed the Government to double its efforts to encourage take-up.
The report said: ‘We were disappointed to find that current Government policy on bioenergy is piecemeal and so lacking in ambition as to raise questions about the extent of the Government’s commitment to its domestic climate change agenda.
‘If it is to lead by example, the Government must renew and redouble its efforts to exploit the potential of bioenergy. The effect of Government support is diluted by delivery through a disparate set of piecemeal incentives, allowances and grants schemes, and by a lack of cross-Government focus.’
Part of the problem, as was the case with LPG, is the lack of long-term commitment from the Government to a particular type of fuel.
It is keen not to promote one fuel over another, although critics say this means all options suffer a lack of attention.
And the current Road Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) targets a date in three-and-a-half-year’s time – critics claim not a long enough or stable enough time period for fuel companies committed to a major infrastructure overhaul.
The report added: ‘Concerns were raised, however, about the duration of the obligation, with several witnesses suggesting that the current timescale is too short to inspire the level of investor confidence required to establish the necessary infrastructure for a viable biofuels industry.
‘The Energy Crops Company maintains that the RTFO targets, while they represent a good ‘first step’, are ‘unambitious’ and argues that the Government should extend the obligation beyond 2010.’
The UK is lagging behind other EU countries in biofuel production and there are concerns that there is not the agricultural capacity to keep up with targets.
In 2003, the combined biofuel output of Germany and France was more than one million tonnes.
By comparison, the UK produced fewer than 0.01 million tonnes in the same period, with biofuels accounting for 0.24% of transport fuels in 2005 – failing to meet the target of 0.3%.
However, use is on the increase. In 2005, 118 million litres were used in transport, up from 20.9 million litres in 2004.