The UK's Department for Transport has announced new rules mandating that 5% of all UK retail fuel come from renewable sources -- that is, biofuels -- by 2010. According to Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation I am proposing today is predicted to save around 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 - the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road.
The 5% requirement would be a 20-fold jump in the use of biofuels in the UK. Interestingly, the mandate allows fuel companies to sell more than 5% biofuels to generate a transferrable credit. The feasibility study put together by the DFT demonstrating that this plan would actually work can be found here.
(Via Green Car Congress)
So why is this news? The UK falls under the EU directive on biofuels which already mandates 5% by 2010. Why does the UK always have to act as if it is doing things alone? A bit more loyalty towards the EU would be welcome. It might even save Britain in the long run. (As we know, the UK faces an energy disaster, as the new shocking report that was published yesterday, shows: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4423456.stm )
Common Brits, stop behaving so insular. You're not that special.
In fact, the EU directive calls for 5.75%.
Interesting. I looked into this, and indeed, in May of 2003 the EU issued a directive that by 2010 biofuels account for 5.75% of transportation fuels available for sale.
The only difference that I can see -- and I don't know if this is simply a difference in phrasing, or is actually meaningful -- is that the UK is mandating that 5% of fuel sold be biofuel by 2010. This could mean that, under EU rules, vendors could make biofuels available, but at rates that would otherwise discourage use (or require subsidies, etc.), while under the UK rules, vendors would have to meet sales targets, even if it resulted in lower profits.
Apparently this study was comprehensive except that it ignored the impact of growing the crops themselves.
Let's see where the biomass comes from. Will it replace essential food crops in Africa? Lead to clearing of forests? Or will it replace food crops in Europe, allowing developing nations to export more food crops to Europe which lowers its agricultural subsidies and trade barriers and replaces crop lands with biomass farms?
If the big fuel companies jump into intensive biomass production and distribution, as they're starting to do, then we'll be producing more social & environment problems, minus some CO2. A low-impact small-scale activity may become a high impact intensive activity.