Future of biofuels in MEPs' hands

The NFU is urging UK MEPs to reject a draft law limiting the amount of crops involved in biofuel production which is to be presented to the European Parliament at the end of the month.

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This is the last parliament vote on the draft before it is instated as legislation and comes after extensive debates on Indirect Land Use Change, in a European Council, Parliament and Commission trialogue and in the Environment Committee. 

The cap on the volume of crops allowed to be used for biofuel processing will be reduced from ten to 7 per cent should the compromise be adopted. The NFU says this will further expose farmers to market volatility as it will narrow the biofuels market for wheat, oilseed rape and sugar beet.

The NFU believes that the ‘food vs. fuel’ basis for the legislation is invalid as the stable, reliable and domestic supply high-protein animal feed made from the biofuel processing co-product is vital for UK livestock producers.

Furthermore, it says with Europe signalling farmers to produce less, there will be a negative impact on overall grain production and therefore food security.

The indirect impact on UK farmers is a reduction in export opportunities for biofuel crops; countries like Germany, the main importer of UK oilseed rape for that purpose, will buy less.

This prolonged and polarised debate on ILUC has reduced the level of ambition in Europe to promote biofuels, and the NFU has continued to reiterate the significant benefits sustainable biofuels have on the environment and the economy.

The NFU’s farmer expert on biofuels, Brett Askew, said that today’s result will do nothing but limit the scope of these potential benefits by imposing scientifically questionable ILUC factors and a cap on the contribution crop based biofuels can make in achieving the minimum of 10 per cent Renewable Transport Fuel by 2020.

Mr Askew, who is the NFU Crops Board Chairman for the North East of England, said: “Legislators have clearly been bullied into this U-turn by a series of environmental and social pressure groups that, until recently, stood shoulder to shoulder with industry and praised the potential contribution of biofuels in decarbonising the transport sector.

“The biofuel industry has led the way in demonstrating standards on farm in the UK, across Europe and subsequently raising sustainability around the world. Yet throughout this process these facts have been ignored with the misleading claim of a conflict between food and fuel distracting policy makers from their original focus: reducing European reliance on harmful fossil fuels in our transport system.

“MEPs have one last chance to demonstrate their commitment to decarbonising the European transport sector while at the same time decreasing the UK and Europe’s protein deficit. It is therefore vital that the compromise text is rejected in plenary on the 29th April.”

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Last edited on: 14:04:2015

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  • Posted by: Dr Robert StevensPosted on: 14/11/2015 08:10:13

    Comment: Our current average electricity usage is about 40GW, but about 65 GW are used to make it. Our current energy usage for non-electric transport and heating is about 180GW. Last year, about 19% of our electricity was renewable, but was about 13% if the energy lost in making it is considered. Because of the dominance of oil and gas used for non-electrical purposes, the overall proportion of our total energy use was only about 7%. This needs to get to 15% by 2020. There is a legal obligation for transport fuel to contain a proportion of biofuels, which is by definition not high enough. however, there is no obligation for an appropriate proportion of biogas to be injected into the National Gas Grid. This must happen to meet the 15%, and farmers must be free to grow what they wish to achieve this. There is considerable obesity and food wastage. Sustainable energy production is vital. Farmers in the past always grew things for food, energy and materials and should be encouraged to continue to do so.

    Dr Robert Stevens

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