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.