UK biofuels launch in disarray

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Government plans for the introduction today of cleaner fuel on all the country’s forecourts have been thrown into turmoil, with the oil companies ready to offer biodiesel but warning they will not have bioethanol available for greener petrol until the beginning of next year at the earliest.

The UK Petroleum Industries Association says its members will still be able to meet their responsibilities under the new legislation because they would double the amount of biodiesel used – 5% a year – to ensure that the 2.5% of all fuel sales come from crops.

Industry experts claim oil companies have been reluctant to spend money on bioethanol because it is expensive compared to biodiesel. Biodiesel is being imported into the UK, having been mixed in the US under a subsidy programme.  D1, a British-based biodiesel manufacturer, announced last Wednesday that it was closing all its UK refineries and making its staff redundant because American B99 biodiesel made local produce uneconomic. The European Biodiesel Board is preparing a complaint to the European commission about the impact of US operations and is hoping for trade sanctions against Washington unless they stop the subsidies.

The government is also embarrassed by the failure of the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA), established to oversee the launch of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) scheme, to appoint a full-time chief executive despite trying for almost a year. There have been mounting calls for the RTFO process to be suspended in the light of fears that some biofuels could make climate change worse rather than better. The government has agreed to review the impact and asked the RFA to oversee this.

Today’s introduction of the renewable fuels obligation will be a focus of protests by environmental campaigners such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and biofuelwatch which argue that growing palm and soya for fuel is causing deforestation and competing against food crops.

 

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7 Responses to UK biofuels launch in disarray

  1. earthpal says:

    I have to say, it surprised me when I heard that yesterday was the day we switched to biofuels. I thought the jury was still out so to speak. There are so many implications, I’m astonished that our government is rushing ahead with this in spite of research and expert advice warning them otherwise.

  2. matt says:

    This was exactly the point made by a speaker at the rally outside Downing Street I went to; that the EU haven’t actually gone ahead with this yet but the UK is. Well guess what, this new Renewable Fuels Agency overseeing the launch of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) scheme has as its members people from the fossil fuel industry, the environment person from BP for example. Same old same old. This Labour govt is just so cynical.

  3. Pete Smith says:

    Seeing as this phase of the RTFO is being implemented by blending biofuel with fossil fuel and delivering it through the existing refuelling infrastructure, I’d be surprised if the old oil fossils weren’t involved.
    I don’t see anyone else putting themelves forward with the necessary expertise in supplying liquid combustibles.

  4. matt says:

    Yes I agree. It’s more about why the UK chooses to push this forward rather than wait for the politics of this to work its way through at the EU level; vested interests and jumping the gun might have something to do with it.

  5. Pete Smith says:

    I’m not usually too keen on conspiracy theories, but I detect a faint whiff of panic in the air. The phrase “security of oil supply” is being heard more and more, echoing what the US has been saying for years.

  6. matt says:

    Have they. They should try dropping their car engine sizes and their waist lines. Oh but that would be too easy.

  7. Pete Smith says:

    If by “They” you mean politicians, I’m not sure how much effect that would have. I’m just mulling over why the sudden urgency, as you asked above? I suspect there may be stuff we’re not being told about our energy supplies (surely not).
    OTOH, the RFA foul-up may just be the latest fumblings of a government that increasingly doesn’t seem able to find its own arse with two hands and a GPS.
    And of course, it’s nice to be seen to be doing something (anything). And even nicer to take the lead, especially when the alternative is to wait to be told what to do by Yurrup.

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