Science

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U.K. Biofuels Law ‘Overhasty’

March 24, 2008 02:33 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Robert Watson, the U.K. Ministry of the Environment’s top scientific adviser, recommends the government reconsider its law requiring that gasoline contain 2.5 percent biofuels.

30-Second Summary

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Watson says that the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation law, due to go into effect on April 15, could have detrimental effects on the environment. He contends that there is insufficient data on the carbon footprint left by biofuels production.

But Dr. Stephen Ladyman, the U.K. minister of state transport, responded to criticism that the law is being hastily implemented in a speech on April 18, 2007. “We’ve done a huge amount of work developing the RTFO in consultation with industry, academia, NGOs and other stakeholders,” Ladyman argued.

Nonetheless, there are persistent concerns that devoting farmland to biofuels pushes up global food prices. Agricultural economists Dennis and Alex Avery write, “World corn prices are above $5 a bushel, up from $1.86 three years ago. Prices for wheat, soybeans, rice and even cotton are rising as they’re crowded out of field space by biofuel crops.”

Brazilian professor Luiz Augusto Horta Nogueira said in an interview with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization that the answer to sustainability may lie in the choice of crop used for biofuel production. For example, less than 20 million hectares of oil palms can produce just as much biodiesel as 200 million hectares of either soybeans or rapeseed.

Headline Link: ‘Call for Delay to Biofuels Policy’

Background: The biofuels debate

Reactions: ‘Biofuels Make Sense but Only if They Are Austainable’

Opinion & Analysis: The pros and cons of biofuels

Biofuels are necessary and can be sustainable
Biofuels production means more expensive food

Reference: The U.K. Renewable Fuels Agency

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