New Biofuels Rules Come Into Force

Today sees the introduction of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) in the UK. All petrol and diesel which is sold at UK pumps must now include at least 2.5% biofuels. The target will rise to 5% by 2010.

The RTFO aims to make transport ‘greener’, by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by road transport: this at present contributes to more than a quarter of the UK’s GHG emissions.

The introduction of the RTFO has had a mixed reaction, with many concerned about the environmental impact of the production of biofuels. Cultivation of palm oil, the world’s biggest biofuel crop, has led to the destrution of large tracts of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia, whilst other concerns surround the fertilisers and machinery used to grow and harvest these crops, reducing the benefit of using them.

The Government claim that introducing biofuels into UK fuels gradually over the next few years will help to provide a market for sustainably produced biofuels. The RTFO contains an obligation for suppliers of biofuels to report on their practices; leading to ‘naming and shaming’ of unsustainable practices.

Read two contrasting views on the RTFO from Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport and Peter Ainsworth, Shadow EFRA Secretary, at the Guardian’s website: 14 April 2008