Biofuels con could cost UK motorists an extra £2bn per year
2 February 2012
The UK Government must drop its drive for biofuels or British motorists will face paying up to £2bn extra at the pump per year by 2020, ActionAid UK and Friends of the Earth warn today (Thursday 2nd February 2012). The policy could also create carbon emissions equivalent to six million extra cars on our roads while having disastrous consequences for people's lives in developing countries.
New research commissioned by the charities, undertaken by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, shows that Government plans to increase the proportion of biofuels in UK petrol to meet our share of the EU's renewable energy target will increase the cost of fuel by the equivalent of an additional litre on every full tank.
As well as hitting consumers' pockets hard, biofuels are bad for business - by 2020, a typical UK lorry driver will be spending as much as £1,400 extra per year on diesel.
The plans could also create an extra 13 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year in the UK while more people in developing countries go hungry and are pushed off their land as biofuel crops are grown instead of food.
The European Union's Renewable Energy Directive, which requires 10 per cent of all energy used in EU transport to come from renewable sources by 2020, promotes biofuels as a greener alternative to fossil fuels. But research by the charities shows that the reality is quite the opposite; rather than cutting greenhouse gas emissions most biofuels increase them.
Meredith Alexander, ActionAid UK's Head of Policy said:
"The UK must scrap its biofuel targets. Motorists, the environment and poor people in developing countries will bear the brunt of this ill-conceived directive. Prices at the pump will be higher and so will CO2 emissions. Increased biofuel production will have disastrous consequences as food prices are forced up and millions of people go hungry and lose their land. "
Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth's Biofuels Campaigner said:
"The Government keeps talking about bringing down costs but here we are paying billions for biofuels that do nothing to boost our economy and nothing to tackle climate change.
"This money would be better spent on improving our train and bus services, promoting cleaner cars, and making cycling a much safer option for short journeys - saving people cash every day."
Notes to editors
1. The two new reports on the economic costs of meeting biofuel targets in the UK and Germany were commissioned by ActionAid and Friends of the Earth from the International Institute for Sustainable Development's Global Subsidies Initiative, and the FiFo Institute for Public Economics (University of Cologne). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a summary of the reports and copies of the full reports.
2. UK petrol already contains 4% biofuels. By 15 April 2012, fuel suppliers must ensure that road transport fuel includes at least 4.7% biofuel, rising to 5% in 2013. The Government is shortly to consult on whether to meet its share of the EU's renewable energy target entirely through the use of biofuels. Doing so would mean that the total cumulative year-on-year cost to UK motorists from 2010 to 2020 would be in the region of £10-£14 billion (assuming a linear uptake of biofuels). This cost represents the higher cost of producing biofuels, compared to conventional fossil fuels.
3. A Friends of the Earthbriefing based on the analysis of the Institute for European Environmental Policy shows that meeting EU targets may lead to an expansion of cultivated agricultural land globally, converting forests, grasslands and peat lands into crop fields. Instead of being 35 to 50% less polluting than fossil fuels (as required by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED)), once land use impacts are included, the extra biofuels that will come to the EU market will be on average 81% to 167% worse for the climate than fossil fuels.
4. Biofuel production increases the price of food globally, while pushing people in poor countries off their land. Worldwide, at least 37 million hectares of land has already been grabbed to produce biofuels, with Africa hit the hardest. Local communities are deprived of land and water for growing essential food crops, creating food insecurity and undermining development efforts. Estimates suggest that meeting the EU 10% target will push another 600 million people into poverty.
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Feb 2012