Friends of the Earth spokesman Simon Bullock, speaking at a House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, said that while the potential for biofuels to reduce emissions was great, safeguards needed to be put in place.
He said: ‘From our perspective the most important thing is to ensure that biofuels are produced to decent environmental and social standards. We do not want to see the Government supporting the technology until it has got those safeguards in place.
‘There is a very real danger that if you put heavy subsidies, tax breaks, into promoting biofuels before those systems are in place then you will set up a large infrastructure based on extremely damaging technology.
‘Biofuel could be very good but, equally, has a massive potential to be very bad.’
Experts in biofuel production have warned that in the race to supply enough, vast swathes of the countryside, both in the UK and abroad, could be levelled to grow crops, while the burning required to clear the ground can actually produce massive amounts of CO2 – far more than an oil field produces.
Labour MP Dr Desmond said incentives needed to be in place for biofuel grown in a sustainable manner.
He said: ‘At the moment, the incentives for biofuel sales are too small for the market to start, so you can buy a biofuel car, but you cannot buy the biofuel to put into it. There is a chicken-and-egg situation here because, if the tax incentives are not there, there will not be a significant market for biofuels anyway.
‘It would be sensible to link the availability of a tax incentive to the certificate of origin of the fuel.
In that case, you can use the incentive to drive the market and control the environmental standards to which it is produced at the same time.’