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The Guardian: Biofuels pioneer vents fury at City as he quits· Share traders blamed for firm’s troubles

D1 founder angry at green groups failing to back him

Terry Macalister 
Tuesday March 11 2008

Karl Watkin, founder of the biofuels pioneer D1 Oils, yesterday announced his departure from the company with a verbal broadside against governments, campaign groups and even the London Stock Exchange.

All had played their part, he said, in unfairly damaging the financial value and progress of a firm that had been fêted by Bill Clinton and other world leaders for its success in turning the jatropha plant into a sustainable transport fuel.

A quarter of a million jobs had been created in the developing world by D1’s strategy of growing jatropha. The plant’s importance as a fuel had been recognised by companies such as BP, which had recently formed a partnership with D1.

“Nevertheless, over the past 12 months I have become increasingly frustrated by the inability of the investment community, governments and NGOs to differentiate D1’s strategy from that of the suppliers of palm, soya and rapeseed whose biodiesel products have been well documented as being environmentally unsustainable.”

Watkins said he was “particularly disheartened” by the numbers of so-called experts on climate change who failed to distinguish between jatropha and other, unsustainable, biodiesel feedstocks.

“This lack of differentiation, combined with the London Stock Exchange’s failure to address both the liquidity problems of [its junior market] Aim and the impact of shorting of illiquid stocks, have conspired to erode the value of D1.”

Friends of the Earth said last night that Watkin and D1 were wrong to present themselves as victims of prejudice and circumstance, saying many of their difficulties encountered were self-inflicted. The company had unrealistic hopes for jatropha, which had all sorts of problems associated with it: the trees were often being grown in an unsustainable way, had much lower yields than expected and could be poisonous for humans and animals, the environmental group claimed.

Watkin’s resignation comes only one trading day after the company announced it was in talks on staff cuts at its British biodiesel refineries. It said 35 jobs might have to go in Middlesbrough and Bromborough, Merseyside blaming the cuts on subsidised American imports wrecking the European biodiesel market. There has also been speculation the company needs to raise up to £30m of new cash.

Watkin said the 40% fall in the company’s share price after its statement to the stockmarket on Friday was “overdone”, but had prompted his resignation.

One of the critics to have faced the company’s wrath in the past was George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist. D1 put out a statement last month in which Lord Oxburgh, the former Shell chairman who now chairs D1, described some of Monbiot’s views as “absurd”. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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