UK to EU: Biofuels Could "Obviously Be Insane"

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The British government’s top environmental advisers had some choice words on the recent push for more biofuels. Bob Watson, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, warned of a “perverse outcome” saying “If one started to use biofuels…and in reality that policy led to an increase in greenhouse gases rather than a decrease, that would obviously be insane,” the Guardian reports.

John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific adviser, faulted America’s sudden demand for biofuels for subjecting the world’s agricultural industry to a “major shock” and raising food prices. Beddington laid into the sanctimonious practice of chopping down rain forest to grow biofuel feedstock, calling it “profoundly stupid.”

These vocal outbursts about the environmental efficacy of biofuels comes a week before the UK is set to initiate the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation mandating that petrol and diesel must contain 2.5 percent biofuel by April 1. This is part of the EU’s greater goal that 5.75 percent of Europe’s petrol come from renewable sources by 2010.

English PM Gordon Brown is gearing up for a fight with the EU over the org’s longer-term goal of upping that to 10 percent by 2020. The English government is set to release a new report from their Renewable Fuels Agency that could sway that 2020 goal, which is not yet law. However, European Commission President José Manuel has called the claims of biofuel’s adverse effect on food prices and the environment “exaggerated.”

WSJ’s Environmental Capital thinks that rolling back biofuel mandates could be good for the environment and might even be politically appealing. But they simultaneously point out that the biofuel surge has been credited by some as shaving as much as 15 percent off the cost of oil. Additionally, with so much bipartisan support for biofuels in the U.S., it seems unlikely that the American voters would embrace a sudden desertion of an industry pegged as a solution to global warming and energy independence. In fact, the “insane” and “profoundly stupid” often play quite well in American politics.

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