Biofuels not as cheap or as ‘green’ as they seem.

A new report by Chatham House has revealed that a heightened reliance on biofuel will cost UK motorists £460 million over the next twelve months. It also claimed that producing vast quantities of biofuels is detrimental to the environment. The think tank even claimed that biodiesel made from vegetable oil is worse for the climate than burning fossil fuels.

In line with the U.K’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation program which began in 2008, biofuel will now make up 5% of transport fuel – the highest ever consumption rate in the U.K.  The program requires suppliers to blend biofuel with the petrol and diesel they sell making it cleaner and ‘greener’. The initiative is designed to reduce carbon emissions; utilise renewable fuel sources more effectively and to help achieve long-term EU energy targets.

Yet the research undertaken by Chatham House proves that these changes will result in costs of £460 million for motorists. The figure is represented by both increased costs at the pump and a higher consumption rate. The energy content of biofuel is much lower than fossil fuels meaning drivers will have to fill up more often, and at a higher prices. “Current biofuels are at best an expensive way of reducing emissions,” said Rob Bailey, who wrote the report, “At worst they produce more emissions than the fossil fuels they replace and contribute to high and unstable food prices”. Certainly, the problems with biofuels are various. Land used to grow the biomass required for production takes up space that would be used for growing food, pushing up food prices in under-developed countries. When demand is rising, farmers expand into forested areas, hastening deforestation. Additionally, the energy used to transport imported and exported biofuels, especially refined palm oil from Indonesia, causes even more harmful emissions. “Once you take into account these indirect effects, biofuels made from vegetable oils actually result worldwide in more emissions than you would get from using diesel in the first place,” Bailey stated.

In order to meet EU mandates, the UK needs to further increase the proportion of biofuel used to 10% by 2020. This would, according to the report, triple costs for consumers and car-users in the future. The Think Tank called the strategy ‘irrational’ and urged the EU to reconsider its targets, in order to mitigate the negative effects for both the environment and numerous economies. This may be difficult for the EU to achieve bearing in mind the benefits of the project for countries with large agricultural sectors and their relationship with the oil industry

Sources include: BBC News

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