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Government sets out more cautious approach to Biofuels

Transport Minister Andrew Adonis has set out plans to take a more cautious approach to biofuels, as part of the Government’s response to concerns about the indirect environmental and social impacts of producing them.

He published a consultation taking forward key findings from the Gallagher Review, including the proposal that the rate of increase of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) be slowed to reach 5% in 2013-14 rather than in 2010-11.

At the same time he dedicated a further £6 million to research being conducted by the Carbon Trust to accelerate the development of advanced sustainable biofuels technologies.

Andrew Adonis said: “Everyone agrees that to tackle climate change we must develop new and cleaner fuels. But we are clear that biofuels will only have a role to play in this if they are sustainably produced.

“That is why the Government commissioned Professor Gallagher to examine the indirect impacts of biofuels, and we have accepted his recommendation to amend but not abandon our approach.

“We need to take a more cautious approach to biofuels and today’s consultation sets out our options, as well as dedicating a further £6 million to helping ensure that second generation biofuels are truly sustainable.”

Tom Delay, Chief Executive Carbon Trust, added: “This funding will help in the urgent search for low carbon and sustainable alternatives to oil by accelerating the development of two advanced technologies; pyrolysis-based conversion and algae as a sustainable feedstock.”

In February, the Government commissioned Professor Ed Gallagher, Chair of the Renewable Fuels Agency, to lead a review of the latest evidence on biofuels. He found that “there is a future for a sustainable biofuels industry” and that by 2020 “biofuels have the potential to deliver annual global greenhouse gas savings of approximately 338 – 371 million tonnes of carbon dioxide”.

However, he also stated that there is a strong need for further evidence and monitoring to determine the sustainability and wider impacts of biofuels. As part of this he made a number of recommendations for the future of biofuels, which were accepted by the Government.

Today’s consultation takes these forward by proposing that:

• The rate of increase of the RTFO be slowed to 0.5% per annum, taking the level to 5% in 2013-14 rather than in 2010-11 as is the case currently;

• Two new eligible fuels – biobutanol and hydrogenated renewable diesel – are added to the list of renewable fuels eligible under the RTFO;

• We continue to support the EU target of 10% renewable transport fuels by 2020, but that this is conditional on evidence showing that it is being delivered sustainably and without significant impacts on food prices;

• Government presses for the 10% target to be kept under regular review in the light of the emerging evidence;

• That the sustainability criteria for biofuels, currently being negotiated, should address indirect, as well as direct, effects on land use;

• We work to establish international standards and controls, which reflect the international nature of the biofuels industry.

The consultation closes on December 17 and all views will be considered.