Royal Society: UK gov needs to grow a biofuels policy
Making a bad problem worse
The British government must set policies to ensure that the current drive towards biofuels does not make a bad situation even worse.
Fuels derived from crops like palm oil have been hailed as a silver bullet for global warming and reliance on oil, but the Royal Society warns that unless proper policies are created biofuels could do as much harm as good.
The Society warns that the UK's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) comes into force in April 2008 does not include a requirement to reduce greenhouse gases. Biofuels may be carbon neutral, but it depends how and where they are produced. RTFO requires that five per cent of fuel sold in the UK comes from renewable resources by 2010.
The report, Sustainable Biofuels: Prospects and Challenges, accepts that biofuels have potential to help but only if policies and targets are established to reduce the possible downsides.
Professor John Pickett, who chaired the report, said: "Cars, lorries and domestic air travel are responsible for a massive 25 per cent of all the UK's greenhouse gas emissions and this figure is growing faster than for any other sector.
"The government must ensure that the RTFO promotes fuels with the lowest emissions by, for example, setting a greenhouse gas reduction target. This will help encourage the improvement of existing fuels and accelerate the development of new ones."
The Royal Society recomends that fuels are considered individually, and that such an assessment should look at the complete production cycle to see whether or not they are carbon neutral. Any assessment should consider what impact increased use of biofuels would have on land use where "unintended consequences may reduce or override the expected benefits". Finally, the Society says any assessment must look at global and regional impacts, not only at impact in the UK.
The report comes as European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas admitted that EC biofuel targets were set without properly considering potential problems, such as pushing up the price of food and the destruction of virgin rainforest in order to plant trees for palm oil. Dimas said care was needed to avoid creating more environmental or social problems.
The Royal Society's report also calls for RTFO to be extended to 20 years in order to encourage long-term investment.
The full report is available to download from here. ®
This is absolute rubbish and demonstrates total ignorance, both of the subject and the RTFO legislation. We have spent the past 18 months considering both the sustainability and carbon savings of this move to replace at least some of the unsustainable transport fuel that is being used.
Nobody - nowhere - has claimed that biofuels are the 'silver bullet' that will keep society mobile. Globally, they can supply only 10% of the energy required, even at todays rate of consumption.
What would the Royal Society advocate in lieu of diminishing oil supplies? No response is anticipated, same as World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and other alleged environmental organisations. George Monbiot included!
'Biofuels ... may actually damage the environment' is not a scientific analysis, but an ill-informed subjective view - I expect more from supposed scientists.
Terry de Winne
Allied Biodiesel Industries (UK)
Re: sola powered
"refinerays": Sounds scary to me!
The UK government...
... needs to attract people with an IQ higher than 75.
... needs to ban the idea of "career MPs"
... needs to consult with and act on the information gleened from scientists BEFORE writing long term policies
Ah, well, at least the wrong lizard didn't get in. Mmmm Snakeskin jacket.