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MPs criticise Government over ‘misguided’ biofuel policy

The Environmental Audit Committee, which is appointed by the House of Commons, has published a damning report on the use and production of biofuels.

The committee of MPs said that while biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport, most first-generation biofuels have had a detrimental impact on the environment.

“In addition, most biofuels are often not an effective use of bioenergy resources, in terms either of cutting greenhouse gas emissions or value-for-money,” said the report Are Biofuels Sustainable?

“The Government must ensure that its biofuels policy balances greenhouse gas emission cuts with wider environmental impacts, so that biofuels are only used where they contribute to sustainable emissions reductions.”

The committee, which has a majority of Labour MPs, was highly critical of the Government and EU, saying their neglect of biomass and other more effective policies to reduce emissions in favour of biofuels was “misguided”. 

The current policy and support framework in favour of biofuels must be changed to ensure that sustainable bioenergy resources maximise their potential to generate energy for the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions, said the committee.

“Biofuels produced from conventional crops should no longer receive support from the Government,” said the report, which was published last week.

“Instead the Government should concentrate on the development of more efficient biofuel technologies that might have a sustainable role in the future.”

The EU Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, recently admitted the Commission did not foresee all the problems that EU biofuels policy would cause.

He indicated that certification would be used to address the negative impacts of biofuels.

However, the committee says this does not go far enough. “The Government should seek to ensure that EU policy changes to reflect the concerns raised in this report.

This means implementing a moratorium on current targets until technology improves, robust mechanisms to prevent damaging land use change are developed, and international sustainability standards are agreed.

Only then might biofuels have a role to play.”

Concluding, the report said: “It will take considerable courage for the Government and EU to admit that the current policy arrangements for biofuels are inappropriate.

"The policy realignments that are required will be a test of the Government’s commitment to moving the UK towards a sustainable low carbon economy.”

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