UK, EU biofuels targets should be revised, UK lawmakers say

LONDON Mon Jun 3, 2013 8:23pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should revise its renewable transport fuel target and push the European Union to change its renewable energy goal to limit the use of unsustainable food-based biofuels, a committee of UK lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The use of biofuels is under scrutiny because some are thought to displace food production into new areas by forcing forest clearance and the draining of peatland. Such displacement is referred to as ILUC (indirect land-use change).

Some first-generation biofuels, such as corn ethanol, are believed to be worse for the environment than fossil fuels and add to food price inflation.

Due to these factors, the government should consider modifying its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) to exclude agriculturally-produced biofuels, the International Development Committee said in a report on global food security.

Earlier this year, a UK think tank also called for the RTFO to be modified to encourage the use of cheaper and more sustainable biofuels.

The RTFO is Britain's main policy instrument for meeting a wider EU goal that 10 percent of transport fuel should come from renewable sources by 2020, called the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The RTFO has been in place since 2008 and has gradually increased every year to require that 5 percent of Britain's fuel supply by volume is made up of renewable fuels from this April.

It does not specify the type of renewable fuels but these have to meet certain criteria and cut greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum amount.

"While we recognize that refining the RFTO will make it harder for the UK to meet current EU obligations, the relevant target does not kick in until 2020 so there is nothing to stop the UK from revising the RTFO now to exclude agriculturally-produced biofuels," said Malcolm Bruce, chair of the committee.

The government should also push the EU to revise its RED which requires EU countries to draw 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020.

The directive should take account of ILUC factors and cap the amount of food-based biofuel which can count towards the target, the committee said.

The committee's food report comes just four days before EU energy ministers are due to discuss a Commission proposal to limit the use of crop-based biofuels in meeting the RED target.

The United Nations' World Environment Day is set to focus on hunger on Wednesday and British Prime Minister David Cameron will host a hunger summit at the weekend in London before a G8 summit starts next week.

(Editing by William Hardy)