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Government puts brakes on biofuels targets

The government is set to take a more cautious approach to biofuels in response to concerns about the indirect adverse environmental impacts of the fuels.

Transport minister Andrew Adonis has 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 five per cent in 2013-14 than 2010-11.

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.”

He also dedicated a further £6m to research being carried out by the Carbon Trust to accelerate the development of advanced sustainable biofuel technologies.

Tom Delay, CEO of the Carbon Trust said:

“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.”

The recommendations made through the consultation are:

  • The rate of increase of the RTFO be slowed to 0.5 per cent per annum, taking the level to five per cent in 2013-14 rather than in 2010-11 as is currently the case.
  • Two new eligible fuels – biobutanol and hydrogenated renewable diesel – are added to the list of renewable fuels eligible under the RTFO.
  • The government continues to support the EU target of 10 per cent 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 per cent 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.
  • The government works to establish international standards and controls, which reflect the international nature of the biofuels industry.

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