Memorandum submitted by the British Association
for Biofuels and Oils (BABFO) (A33)
BABFO exists to promote a new industry for British
agriculturethe production of liquid biofuels for road transport.
To establish a viable liquid biofuels industry
within whatever subsidy/quota framework exists for British agriculture
requires only that the Treasury, within EU rules; applies an equitable
rate of duty to these fuels. The high rate of fuel duty (around
45p/litre) was introduced to curb the use of polluting finite
fossil fuel. It is therefore illogical to tax biofuels as heavily
as fossil fuels, they are part of the solution not the problem.
The fossil gas fuels (LPG, CNG, LNG) have been given a major duty
rebate equal to about 40ppl or a duty rate of about 4.5ppl. These
fuels however do little or nothing to curb greenhouse gas production
compared with the biofuels. Also the benefit of their better tailpipe
emissions has to a large degree been overtaken by the development
of particulate traps and catalytic converters. Nevertheless the
Government considers that these fuels warrant this duty rebate.
Given this, the case for biofuels to have the same rebate is overwhelming.
The initial 20p rebate on biodiesel promised for Budget 2002 is
a start but is not enough to start large-scale production by the
major firms waiting in the wings with the capital and expertise
so to do. The production process is simpleoilseeds are
crushed, extraction rate being about 42 per cent oil, the oil
is then "esterified" to remove the glycerine element
and the resulting fuel is the ether biodiesel. The co-products
are glycerine (used in soap manufacture) and oilseed meal for
A low level flight over the UK would suggest
that the current level of stewardship of farmland is good. After
all it is not in the interest of the farmer and landowner to devalue
his/her property by poor husbandry. However, growing crops for
liquid biofuels could enhance biodiversity and prosperity as shown
below as well as creating diversity of supply, a key point in
Government energy policy:
New root crops would be developed,
ie new strains of fodder beet for bioethanol;
Codes of practice for oil seed crops
would be developed (discussions have already taken place with
the RSPB who have found that oilseeds provide an excellent habitat
for linnets and other seed-eating birds);
Rural employment would be aided as
"set aside" land was brought from idleness to useful
A hundred years ago some 20 per cent of English
farmland was used for road transport fuel productionoats
and hay for horses. It is quite practical to consider that a similar
percentage of our land could within ten or twenty years be used
again for road transport fuel.
There are some 6 million ha of crops and temporary
grass in the UK. If 20 per cent were put to liquid biofuels, some
1.2 million ha would be available. If split equally between biodiesel
and bioethanol crops there would be 600,000ha for each fuel. Current
yields of biodiesel in Europe are around 1.6t of oil per ha per
annum at an extraction rate of 42 per cent. However, best practice
in Germany is already achieving 2t/ha/pa. At 1.75t oil /ha/pa,
600,000ha would give some 1 million tonnes, 6.6 per cent of current
DERV uptake of 15 million tpa. Currently there is some 500,000ha
of set aside and much of this is potentially available for oilseeds.
Linseed is no longer a practical proposition and land previously
under this crop (200,000ha in 1999) could also be available. Oilseed
crops for food use currently take about 400,000ha and there are
no husbandry reasons why UK oilseed area should not come up to
1 million ha/pa.
For bioethanol, yields from wheat are of the
order of 3 tonnes per ha but higher yields are in prospect from
such specialist crops as fodder beet and wheat harvested as wheat
crop prior to full ripening. If prospective yield were taken at
3.5t/ha/pa, 600,000ha would produce some 2 million tonnes or 9
per cent of the 22 million tonnes of petrol now burnt annually
in the UK.
Transport fuel is the fastest-rising cause of
greenhouse gas (ghg) and the biofuels on full life cycle analysis
produce less than half of the ghg on a g/km travelled basis compared
with fossil derived petrol, gas and diesel. The case for a tax
rebate which recognises this is overwhelming especially when it
is recalled that the high fuel duty rate was introduced to curb
the use of finite polluting fossil fuel.
Old MAFF found it difficult to grasp these realities.
We hope new DEFRA will have a better concept of joined up Government
as DTLR, DTI and of course the Treasury are involved as well as
DEFRA. We are aware that Professor Nigel Mortimer of Sheffield
Hallam University has been asked by the Non Food Forum to look
at biodiesel. Unfortunately it now transpires that Professor Mortimer,
excellent man that he is, should not have been appointed as he
is already under contract to the Government on other projects
and his work has been mostly with energy conservation in buildings.
We fear he may have been selected by certain civil servants to
try to ensure they get the answer they want through the simple
expedient of giving guidance to the piper whom they are paying.
DTLR are leading on fuel duties for biofuels
but they have shown a marked lack of understanding of the underlying
rural realities and have consistently funded the gas fuels instead.
This may prove embarrassing. For the record, after five years
of promotion, gas managed only 0.01 per cent of the fuel market
(47,000 tonnes) in the last 12 months for which data is available.
Therefore all the effort has produced no saving on ghg and immeasurably
small reductions in tailpipe emissions.
The nation's interests may be best served if
DEFRA (Head of Industrial Crops) were given the lead leaving DTLR
be consulted only on emissions. DTI may come to understand the
favourable energy balances of biodiesel (energy output 2x input
and 4x if the straw is utilised for electricity generation as
in the excellent Ely power station), Biofuels are the Low Carbon
fuel potentially available now.
The EU has recently issued draft directives
indicating 2 per cent of road transport to be biofuelled by 2005
and upwards of 5.75 per cent by 2010. For the UK, the 2005 target
would mean 300,000 tonnes of biodiesel and about 440,000 tonnes
Private capital and expertise is waiting in
the wings to create this new liquid biofuels industry. All that
is needed is a duty rate close to parity with the gas fuels.
In conclusion, may we invite the Committee to
take a fresh look at the massive agricultural and environmental
potential of biodiesel and bioethanol and press the Chancellor
to rapidly bring the duty on these fuels into line with the fossil
gas fuels. A rate of around 5p per litre. We show above that the
biofuels could provide 3 million tonnes in short order to give
major savings in ghg and tailpipe emissions, create energy, increase
diversity of fuel supplies, lessen the environmental hazards attached
to fossil fuels and increase biodiversity.
Please note that further supporting evidence
is available in the "Green Fuels Challenge" paper submitted
to the DTLR by BABFO.
Annexed is a paper by Professor Sir Colin Spedding
CBE covering wider political and strategic implications for biofuels.
14 December 2001