Gallagher Review calls for biofuels use to decrease

By Suzanne Schmidt | June 17, 2008
Web exclusive posted July 9, 2008 at 12:40 p.m. CST

Rising food costs, exhaustion of natural resources and the elevation of greenhouse gases is a concern for the United Kingdom and European Union biofuels markets. Recently, the U.K. Renewable Fuels Agency's report "The Gallagher Review of the Indirect Effects of Biofuels Production" examined the indirect effects of biofuels, whether biofuels cause greenhouse gas emissions or harm to biodiversity by contributing to land-use change and the effect of biofuel on food prices.

The Gallagher Review was released on July 7. According to the U.K. Renewable Fuels Agency, the review was conducted "in the light of new evidence suggesting that an increasing demand for biofuels might indirectly cause carbon emissions because of land use change, and concerns that demand for biofuels may be driving food insecurity by causing food commodity price increases."

The benefit of developing biofuels and renewable energy sources are the reduction in greenhouse gases but if agriculture is reduced, it may also increase the production of greenhouse gases. The report explored ways to continue production in biofuels while also preserving farm land, feedstock and natural resources.

The Gallagher review provided the following key conclusions:
  • The introduction of biofuels should be slowed until effective controls are in place to prevent land use change and higher food prices.

  • There is a future for a sustainable biofuels industry but creating the policy right framework is challenging and will take time.

  • Current policies, if left unchecked, will reduce biodiversity and may even cause greenhouse gas emissions rather than savings. More caution and discrimination are needed in the feedstock used to produce biofuels.

  • Increasing demand for biofuels contributes to rising prices for some food commodities, notably oil seeds, that has a detrimental effect on the poor.

  • Biofuels production must target idle and marginal land, and the use of wastes and residues. This will avoid indirect land use change and reduce competition with food.

  • Specific incentives are needed to encourage advanced technologies that utilize feedstock grown on idle and marginal land.


"We cannot afford to abandon biofuels as part of a low carbon transport future," said Ed Gallagher, chair of the U.K. Renewable Fuels Agency. "We cannot continue producing biofuels which are ultimately more environmentally and socially damaging than the fossil fuels they seek to replace. "

The report offers recommendations for responsible use of biofuels. "In the short term, we will seek to rebuild the working consensus between government, environmentalists and industry to lay out clear directions for the feedstocks, the production processes and the land usage that will enable alternative fuel production to proceed in a truly sustainable way," Gallagher said.

The Renewable Fuels Agency is a government non-departmental public body and independent regulator. It was established in October 2007 as part of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) Order. The RTFO applies to all UK. refiners, importers and any one who supplies more than 450,000 liters (118.8 gallons) of fossil-based road transport fuel annually to the U.K. market. The initial requirement is for 2.5 percent of the fuel supplied for road transport in 2008-2009 must be biofuel. The RTFO order proposes that this should increase by 1.25 percent a year up to 5 percent in 2010-2011. However, the Gallagher review proposes that the rate of increase in the RTFO should be reduced to 0.5% a year, bringing the target to 5% in 2013-2014.

The report can be downloaded at www.renewablefuelsagency.org/reportsandpublications/reviewoftheindirecteffectsofbiofuels.cfm.
 
 
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