Report warns biofuels could produce twice as much carbon as

While the latest data reveals the vast majority of UK biofuels fail to meet environmental standards, new report claims carbon emissions could be far higher than fossil fuels

Friends of the Earth has today called on the government to suspend targets for the use of biofuel after new research revealed that the carbon footprint of biofuels used in the UK could be double that of conventional transport fuels.

The study by consultancy Scott Wilson Group was commissioned by Friends of the Earth to assess the impact of the UK's Renewables Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) targets on land use.

Based on "a conservative assumption", it found that 10 per cent extra crop land would have to be found to replace food and other crops pushed aside by the spread of biofuel plantations in countries such as Brazil, Argentina and the US, and that carbon emissions could have doubled as a result of the target when compared with the continued use of fossil fuels.

The report's authors admit it is not intended as "an exhaustive study of the emissions from indirect land use change", but argue that it is based on widely accepted carbon footprinting methodologies and should be seen as a "starting point" for further research.

It is also the latest in a series of studies to suggest that carbon emissions from biofuels could be far higher than conventional fossil fuels, with one study last year suggesting that associated deforestation means that the carbon footprint of some biofuels could be up to 420 times higher than petrol.

Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins, said the government should immediately suspend its target to source 10 per cent of UK fuel from biofuels by next year. "Until Ministers can do their sums properly and prove that growing crops for fuel actually cuts carbon, the government should stop biofuels being added to UK petrol and diesel," he said. "Trying to cut emissions by adding biofuels to petrol is like trying to cut down on beer by lacing your pints with vodka. One year on, it's clear the biofuels obligation is a failure."

The government has acknowledged there are legitimate environmental concerns about biofuels and has introduced an independent watchdog and sustainability standard to try to ensure the energy crops used in UK biofuel are only sourced from legal plantations that do not lead to deforestation.

However, despite a steady improvement in the data available, the latest quarterly report from the Renewable Fuels Agency found that, over the past nine months, only 18 per cent of biofuels used in the UK met an environmental standard compared with a target of 30 per cent. Moreover, the feedstock and country of origin remains unknown for almost a fifth of imported fuel.

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