Friday, 8 August 2008

Biofuels fail eco standards

According to a report in The Guardian, more than 80% of the biofuels used under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) fail environmental standards. the RTFO calls for biofuels to be mixed into all petrol and diesel supplies, in a government-led bid to tackle climate crisis. A report by The Renewable Fuels Agency says just 19% of the biofuel supplied under the scheme met its green standard. For the remaining 81%, suppliers could not say where it came from, or could not prove that it had been produced in a sustainable way.

The project began in April, and biofuel accounted for 2.1% of UK road fuel for the first month of the scheme, against a target for the year of 2.5%. 865 was biodiesel, the rest bioethanol. Scientists and campaigners have warned that biofuels could cause more problems than they solve, with concerns over the destruction of tropical forests and impact on global food supplies.
The RFA's environmental standard is intended to address those concerns and covers issues from child labour to water and soil conservation, although it doesn't take into account the impact of changes in land use, which experts have warned could cancel out the environmental benefits of biofuels.

Under the RTFO, suppliers are supposed to ensure that 30% of the biofuel used meets the voluntary standard. Data shows most biofuels were imported, with the majority of identified supplies coming from the US. However, at least 6m litres came from palm oil, a highly controversial crop that has been linked to severe deforestation and threats to orang-utan populations in south-east Asia. This could be an under-estimate because half the biodiesel used was untraceable.

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