Biofuels used in cars could produce twice the carbon emissions of the fossil fuels they replace, environmentalists claimed on Wednesday.
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Friends of the Earth said rules introduced a year ago which require a certain percentage of UK transport fuels to be made up of the ‘green’ fuels could, instead of cutting emissions, have created an extra 1.3m tonnes of CO2.
The emissions may have come from the ‘indirect’ impacts of biofuels, such as when forests are chopped down to make way for food crops that have been displaced by ethanol- and biodiesel-producing crops.
On Wednesday, a year on from the introduction of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, the amount of biofuel required in fuels rose from 2.5% to 3.3% – a smaller increase than originally planned following concerns over their effects. However, the UK is still required to meet an EU target of 10% renewables in transport fuel by 2020.
Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said: ‘Until ministers can do their sums properly and prove that growing crops for fuel actually cuts carbon, the government should stop biofuels being added to UK petrol and diesel.
‘Trying to cut emissions by adding biofuels to petrol is like trying to cut down on beer by lacing your pints with vodka. Investing in first class public transport is a much better way to reduce emissions on our roads.’
But Clare Wenner of the Renewable Energy Association, which has warned against slowing down the introduction of biofuels, said: ‘We really have been able to demonstrate that UK biofuels can make the grade on carbon savings. It can be done and we are doing it, in the face of competition from Brazil and everywhere else.’
Wenner added that the government should show greater support for the UK industry, because the country is having to rely heavily on imports – with less control over how sustainable the products are.
And while she welcomed signals that the government wanted to boost the production of electric cars, because ‘transport needs everything thrown at it’, she said their contribution would be small – and only ‘’ if the power came from renewable sources.
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© 2009 The Press Association