Biofuel targets likely to cause higher food prices, UK report

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Petroleum

Biofuels are generally an expensive and ineffective way to cut
greenhouse gas emissions when compared to other policies and are
likely to cause increasing food prices and insecurity, concluded a
UK government report yesterday.

It also criticized the British and EU governments for pursuing targets for increased use of biofuels without putting in place 'robust' measures to prevent environmental damage. The report comes as concern about the impact of biofuels on the environment and supply of staple food crops grows. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has repeatedly warned that biofuel production is partly responsible for rising food prices in recent months, threatening food security in developing countries in particular. But EU policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions says that 10 per cent of transport fuel should come from biofuels by 2020. Britain has a separate target of 5 per cent biofuels in petrol and diesel by 2010 through its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which is set to enter into force in April. The targets have been attacked by several leading food processors facing rising raw material costs. In an interview with The Times newspaper yesterday, Indra Nooyi, the joint chairman and chief executive of PespiCo, said that food price inflation would continue for another two to three years, driven by government programmes to subsidise ethanol, the biofuel produced from key food crops, corn and sugar. In its report, 'Are biofuels sustainable?', the UK government's environmental audit committee says that: "Emissions from road transport can be cut cost-effectively, and with lower environmental risk, by implementing a range of other policies." ​ It also claims that biofuels are unlikely to improve fuel security as they largely rely on fossil fuels for their production and that "a large biofuel industry based on current technology is likely to increase food prices and could damage food security in developing countries". ​Current agricultural support for biofuels is largely unsustainable, it added. Instead the UK government should concentrate on the use of sustainable biofuels such as waste vegetable oil and the development of more efficient biofuel technologies that "could have a role to play in the future once they have been shown to be more sustainable". ​The report prompted an angry response from the EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs, who said that biofuels had to be supported as the "most immediately feasible way"​ of reversing greenhouse gas discharges from cars. "The Commission strongly disagrees with the conclusion of the British House of Commons report,"​ he said. Research published in the journal Science this month warned that using biofuels made from corn, sugar and soyabean oil could cause greater environmental damage than burning fossil fuels. Although the alternative fuels emit fewer greenhouse gases, they have higher costs in terms of biodiversity loss and destruction of farmland, the scientists found.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

Related news

Show more

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars