The future of biofuels has been thrown further into doubt after the publication of an independent review of the Government’s biofuel plans.
The review found that the Government’s target that 10% of all transport fuels must be biofuel by 2012 is too ambitious and needs to be revised down.
There has been a massive backlash against biofuel, with charities accusing producers of destroying rain forests to grow biofuel crops as well as switching production from food to fuel crops.
Campaigners such as Friends of the Earth say that this has, in part, led to the surge in world food prices.
Now the Renewable Fuels Agency's review, which was led by Professor Ed Gallagher, said the Government must slow the introduction of biofuels until effective controls are in place.
It warned that current policies, if left unchecked, “will reduce biodiversity and may even cause greenhouse gas emissions rather than savings”.
It also said that demand for biofuels contributes to rising prices for some food commodities, notably oil seeds, which is having a “detrimental effect on the poor”.
However, it also found that there is still a future for a sustainable biofuels industry where production is on idle and marginal land.
This will avoid indirect land use change and reduce competition with food, it said.
The report’s recommendations do not go far enough, say Friends of the Earth.
The charity urged the Government to reconsider its biofuels obligation altogether, rather than just “tinkering” at the margins.
"Feeding cars instead of people pushes up food prices and fuels deforestation,” said its spokesman Kenneth Richter.
Surprisingly, the Gallagher report was given a warm reception by the biofuels industry.
“Far from being bad news for the industry, the report confirms that biofuels have their role to play, but we must proceed with caution and make sure that biofuels are made from sustainable sources,” said Richard Price, director of Biofuels Media.