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Almost nine out of ten Britons have no idea that biofuels will be added to their petrol from tomorrow, according to the first ever public attitudes survey on the controversial alternative fuels. The research also revealed that, of those who knew what biofuels are, three quarters would prefer the Government to curb emissions by improving public transport or making cars greener.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by Friends of the Earth, also revealed that 78 per cent of the public agree that European governments should make vehicle manufacturers double the fuel efficiency of new cars by 2020 in order to tackle climate change. And that more than two thirds of people think the Government is not doing enough to improve public transport.

The Government's Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, brought in to meet EU regulations, means all petrol sold in the UK will have to include at least 2.5 per cent biofuels - made from crops- from 15 April 2008. But although the move aims to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions, new scientific evidence shows that the growth in biofuels could actually increase greenhouse gas emissions through land conversion and greater use of chemical fertilisers.

Worryingly, two thirds of those surveyed by Friends of the Earth were unaware that the growth in biofuels is contributing to the destruction of rainforest.

Friends of the Earth believes the UK Government and the EU should scrap their biofuels targets and tackle transport pollution by investing in better public transport and strengthening proposals for mandatory emissions limits on all new cars.

Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner, Kenneth Richter, said:

"Most people will be horrified to know the Government is putting biofuels in our petrol when the damage they do to forests could make climate change worse.

"People want to see real green transport solutions that make a difference to their lives instead - like better public transport and smarter cars that burn less fuel. It's now up to the Government to put transport policy on the right track."


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,183 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 - 7 April 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[1] The survey results are:

When asked whether they thought European Governments should make vehicle manufacturers double the fuel efficiency on new cars by 2020, 78 per cent of all respondents either agreed or strongly agreed.

Overall more than two thirds (70 per cent) think the Government is not doing enough to improve public transport.

When asked, "are you aware that the growth in biofuels is contributing to deforestation in countries like Indonesia?" only 33 per cent of respondents answered yes.

89 per cent of people in Great Britain do not know that biofuels are going to be added to their petrol from 15 April when the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation comes into force.

Of the 1,209 respondents who knew what biofuels were (55 per cent), fewer than one in seven people (14 per cent) thought they were the best way to reduce emissions from road transport. 44 per cent singled out improving public transport as the best option.

[2] Recent research has suggested that the carbon dioxide emissions released when land is converted to grow biofuels could take centuries to pay back. Globally the push for biofuels is resulting in increased pressure on the worlds remaining rainforests which hold huge stores of carbon.

Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen has calculated that using chemical fertilisers to grow biofuel crops can release twice the amount of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) than previously thought.

[3] There are increasing calls for Government caution on biofuels, The King Review of Low Carbon Cars, commissioned by the UK Government and published on 12 March 2008, urged the EU to shift the focus of its policy from biofuels to cleaner automotive technology. It also recommended adopting a target of 100 grammes of carbon dioxide emissions for each kilometre a car travels. Friends of the Earth is calling for European governments to go even further and make vehicle manufacturers double the average fuel efficiency on new cars by 2020 - something supported by the vast majority of people in our survey released today.

New cars sold in the UK in 2007 emitted 164.9 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km CO2). The latest figures for the EU as a whole showed that average emissions of new cars sold in 2006 were CO2. Doubling average fuel efficiency would reduce average emissions to 80g/km CO2.

The EU is currently deciding on emissions targets for the next decade or more. And has recently weakened its plans to reduce average emissions from new cars sold in the EU to no more than 120g per kilometre by 2012 in the wake of lobbying from car companies like Porsche. As well as relaxing the limit to 130 g/km it has not proposed any firm longer term targets for 2020. Car manufacturers are calling for the 2012 target to be weakened still further and, according to reports, Porsche is considering legal action against the EU if it sticks to its original 120g/km CO2 target.

For further information about low carbon cars and the current EU negotiations. (PDF† )

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust