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« Surveillance of school applicants | Main | Canadian civil liberties »
Thursday
Apr102008

April 15th is biofuels day!

Yes folks, the day when you can start to do your bit to cause starvation in the third world is close at hand! From April 15th all fuels used for transport has to contain 2.5 per cent of biofuels. Break out the bunting!

The UK's Renewable Energy Association, which is behind Biofuels Day, has certainly got something to celebrate anyway, and it has hauled its collective snout out of the subsidy trough for long enough to set up a swanky new website where, among other things, you can listen to views on biofuels from "experts":

[B]uying British biofuels produced from crops grown in accordance with strict farm assurance standards is the best guarantee of ensuring sustainability credentials.

So says Peter Kendall, President, National Farmers’ Union. By an odd co-incidence Mr Kendall has in recent years converted his farm over "from a very traditional mixed farm to a totally arable unit" thus leaving him extremely well placed to take advantage of the relentless upward progress of grain prices while still collecting all those lovely subsidies. Some people have the luck of the devil don't they?

The REA have had a lovely time parsing the Royal Society's report on biofuels too - you may remember this one from a couple of months back - the headline in the Times was "Biofuels do more harm than good". Unabashed, Biofuels dDay has hauled out lots of juicy quotes which appear to support their case but which, if you read them carefully, are just waffle.

There's a wonderful quote from Oxfam (you know, famine relief and all that). They're in favour of biofuelled hunger too, it seems!

Under the right conditions, biofuels offer important opportunities for poverty reduction by stimulating stagnant agricultural sectors, thus creating jobs for agricultural workers and markets for small farmers.

You might have thought that a charity devoted to famine relief might be a bit more circumspect in their support. And you'd be right too - using what may be the largest font size ever used in a press release, the Oxfam report from which this quote is taken has the subtitle:

Why the EU renewable-fuel target may be disastrous for poor people. 

Which is not what you'd call unequivocal support, is it? I don't think the Biofuels people can claim that they missed this bit.

Of course, the EU is in on the act too. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has this to say:

European consumers should be assured that the biofuels used in Europe, and receiving support, are sustainable biofuels, in other words, that the biofuels they buy do not increase greenhouse gas emissions, do not lead to the destruction of rainforests or other biodiversity-rich areas, do not exacerbate food shortages and are not unreasonably expensive.

Which is a bit odd, because just today the EU's own scientific advisers said this:

The EEA has estimated the amount of available arable land for bioenergy production without harming the environment in the EU. In the view of the EEA Scientific Committee the land required to meet the 10 % [biofuels] target exceeds this available land area even if a considerable contribution of second generation fuels is assumed.

and this

The 10 % target will require large amounts of additional imports of biofuels. The accelerated destruction of rain forests due to increasing biofuel production can already be witnessed in some developing countries. Sustainable production outside Europe is difficult to achieve and to monitor.

The timing of Biofuels Day seems to have been dictated by the timing of the biofuels obligation coming into force. It really couldn't have come at a worse time for the REA though, with food riots breaking out all over the place and the world and his wife denouncing biofuels as a monumental folly. But who knows, by the time the history of the biofuels scam comes to be written, maybe they'll have come up with some better explanations for why they thought it was a good idea.

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