UK and Europe push for “right kind” of biofuels

Greenhouse emissions savings made by using biofuel vary greatly with the methods used to produce it, and must be taken into account in policy, European and UK transport officials said Tuesday.

The sustainability of biofuels must not be taken for granted if current policy geared at increasing their market share is to help reduce greenhouse emissions from transport, Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman told an industry conference in London.

Britain has a target of 5% biofuel market share by 2010-11, under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), which will come into force in April 2008.

Stephen Ladyman stressed the key role of biofuels in the development of a sustainable transport network, but also emphasised the need to encourage the “right kind” of biofuels.

“Mandatory reporting is needed from day one on the types of biofuels used and where they come from and comprehensive guidelines will be published on this.”

“Companies will have to account for the sustainability of both imported and home-grown fuels. No other country has introduced such stringent requirements,” he said.

The UK has so far proved a biofuel underachiever, as one of the European countries not to have reached its target of 2% market share for biofuels by 2005, which it set itself under the EU Biofuels Directive.

Sweden is the leader in biofuel use, followed by Germany, the Chech Republic, Spain and France. The EU-wide goal for 2010 is 5.75%, and while Sweden and Germany are well on the way to achieving it, the UK remains far behind.

Sustainability assurance is a major concern for all of Europe, Paul Hodson, DG for transport at the European Commission, told the conference.

He said incentives must be linked to greenhouse gas emissions associated with biofuel production – encouraging domestic supply and making sure that “rainforests are not destroyed” to produce the biofuel. Certifying sustainability would provide incentives for better production, he said.

Concerns were raised over the future profitability of biofuels invested in today, if policy is to shift in favour of some types, disadvantaging others.

The Transport Minister acknowledged there is a fine balance to be reached between encouraging innovation and ensuring a solid basis for investment.

“We want to both encourage development of second generation of biofuels and make sure that current investment in first generation biofuels is profitable now and for the future,” Stephen Ladyman said.

By Goska Romanowicz

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