Biofuels must play an important part of Europe’s energy supply

But UK is not doing enough to encourage their use

Brussels, 24 January 2006 -- Biofuels can and should become an important part of our energy supply, but the British government is failing in its responsibility to promote environmentally-friendly fuels, Sir Robert Atkins, Conservative MEP has said today.

His comments come as EU Finance Ministers meet to discuss a French report looking at how the EU can rethink its approach towards energy. The report suggests an increase in the use of biofuels. EU Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, has also today unveiled official polling on European attitudes to energy.

Sir Robert has drafted a report in the European Parliament which looks at ways in which the biofuels sector can be promoted across the EU. His report recognises that following the reform of the CAP, many farmers are looking to non-food crops as a new business opportunity.

The European Commission has set out its own action plan for increasing the use of biofuels but the British government’s approach appears to be in disarray. The European Commission issued a warning to the United Kingdom last year because it was failing to reach its agreed biofuels targets. Only 0.3% of the UK petrol and diesel market was taken by biofuels in 2005 when the EU’s target was 2%.

The UK also attracted criticism when at the turn of the year, it prohibited the use of certain types of animal fat, known as tallow, as a fuel in steam raising boilers. Tallow is a carbon neutral fuel which burns with considerably lower levels of emissions than heavy fuel oil and 22 other EU member states continue to burn tallow as a biofuel.

Sir Robert said:

“While biofuels are not the only answer to Europe’s energy concerns, they should be an integral part of easing them.

“Biofuels are good for our environment, good for our agriculture industry and would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. When European Ministers discuss their report today, the government will probably agree the importance of biofuels, but it is doing very little back home to back up the rhetoric and build a biofuels industry.

“The European Commission has formally rebuked the UK for failing to meet its biofuels targets. Britain’s next target is to replace five percent of our forecourt fuels with biofuels by 2010. Unless the government stops paying lip service to its biofuels commitments and puts in place a strategy, Britain will fail to reach that target too.

“British farmers are looking for innovative markets in which they can expand and biofuels could provide new business opportunities. But farmers will not want to move into producing crops for fuel unless the government starts to take this important sector seriously.”

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