The NFU has taken the opportunity of national Biofuels Day to draw a clear distinction between biofuels produced to what it calls “The British Model” that yield genuine greenhouse gas savings, and biofuels produced elsewhere in the world with fewer environmental safeguards.

NFU president Peter Kendall explained that all biofuels are not the same, and that different systems of biofuel production have hugely varying impacts on the environment, greenhouse gas emissions and the food versus fuel equation.

“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”, he said.

“People can use biofuels produced to the British model with a clear conscience, knowing they are doing their bit for the environment, and I urge them to do so.

British-grown and processed biofuels achieve savings of up to 64% in greenhouse gas emissions compared with petrol or diesel, he added “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.”

The key elements in the British model of biofuels are:

  • Wheat and oilseed rape grown for bioethanol and biodiesel respectively are produced in accordance with the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme
  • EU cross-compliance conditions already require environmentally friendly field margins and preclude damage to either landscape or bio-diversity
  • Every tonne of wheat used for bioethanol or oilseed rape for biodiesel will yield a third of a tonne of fuel and a third of a tonne of high protein animal feed

Mr Kendall said the impact of biofuels on world food supplies and prices had been grossly exaggerated. Less than 1% of the world’s wheat crop was used for bioethanol production last year, yet wheat prices more than doubled.

The next 30 years

“It is the world’s demand for food that is driving prices up”, said Mr Kendall. “The core problem is years of under-investment in agriculture around the world – the result of unsustainably low prices.

“Over the next 30 years, a combination of rising population and changing diets will mean that the world’s farmers have to double or triple production to keep the world fed.

“Biofuels are a relatively minor factor in the overall equation, and if more crops are now being used for fuel, that is mainly down to the record price of oil, and the desire of countries like the USA to strengthen their energy security.

“In the UK we can produce all of the biodiesel and bioethanol needed to meet the targets of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation from feed wheat that would otherwise be exported, or oilseed rape grown on former set-aside land.

Development

Even the EU target of a 10% inclusion rate by 2020 will have only minor impact on prices.

“Biofuels are at present the only viable renewable alternative to fossil fuels in road transport. We need to develop this technology if we are to beat climate change without seriously restricting personal mobility.

“National Biofuels Day is an opportunity not only to set the record straight but to send out a clear message that the best biofuels for the planet are biofuels grown in Britain.”