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Biofuel rules ‘could make millions homeless’

Daily Telegraph: Biofuel rules ‘could make millions homeless’

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 15/04/2008

Millions of people face eviction from their land to satisfy demand unleashed by new rules requiring petrol and diesel from today to include a proportion of plant-based “bio-fuels” according to protesters.

The aid charity, Oxfam, has warned that 60 million people in Asia, Africa and South America are threatened with possible eviction to make way for “green” fuel plantations, whether palm oil, soya or sugar cane.  

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds accuses the Government today of overlooking the likely impact on endangered species of biofuels production, which is costing the taxpayer £500 million in subsidies.

The RSPB has produced a report saying that the Alagoas curassow, a large black bird once found in the Atlantic forest of north-eastern Brazil was the first species to be presumed extinct because of land clearance for sugar cane plantations.

The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires 2.5 per cent of the petrol and diesel sold from today to be biofuel, but it became clear that motorists will not know what the biofuel in their tank is made of until this autumn at least.

Shell, BP and other major fuel companies say it is difficult to say how much soya, rape, palm oils or ethanol from sugar cane is in the motorist’s tank because of market variability, shared storage tanks and pipeline infrastructure.

The Department for Transport was also unable to say how much biofuel being sold on forecourts was imported ahead of the first interim report of the Renewable Fuels Agency, expected in July.

Suppliers of fuel must tell the agency where their fuel came from and what it was made of but they are allowed initially to enter up to 50 per cent of the biofuels they use as of unknown origin.

Robert Bailey, a policy adviser at Oxfam, said: “It is outrageous that the Government is forcing compulsory use of biofuels on to the British public without full evidence of their impact.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said there would be two or three years of biofuel production before environmental or social safeguards are incorporated in the legal standards from 2010.

Dr Jeremy Woods of the Royal Society’s working group on biofuels said however that the 2.5 per cent biofuel requirement sent a message to industry that it was worthwhile to invest in biofuels and to accelerate the development of a new generation of fuels made from waste rather than food crops.

He said: “It is foolhardy to demonise all biofuels as unsustainable and environmentally damaging when some, which are already on the market, can play an important role, right now, in helping us to tackle climate change.”

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers’ Union, said that not all biofuels were the same. “There is a world of difference between biofuels grown on cleared rain-forest and then transported half way across the globe and those grown sustainably here in Britain.”

“British-grown and processed biofuels achieve savings of up to 64 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions compared with petrol or diesel, they will be grown in accordance with independently monitored farm assurance standards and they will yield as much high protein animal feed as they do bioethanol and biodiesel,” he said.

The Government ordered a review of the environmental and economic damage of growing biofuels in February. This study, produced by the Renewable Fuels Agency, will be published in the summer, several months after the Obligation came into force.
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/04/15/eabiofuel115.xml

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