Robert Sturdy MEP: EU Biofuels Targets

Dear MEP,

I am writing to ask you to vote against the proposed EU targets to increase the use of biofuels in road transport. I would like to thank Andrew Duff and Jeffrey Titford for their replies to my previous email in February.

There is mounting evidence that the large-scale production of biofuels will:

– destroy forests that are some of the world’s most important habitats
– take food and land from the poorest people
– increase, not reduce climate change

Please vote against the biofuels targets. Supporting stronger proposals to improve the fuel efficiency of new vehicles would be a much better way to combat climate change.

Please let me know how you intend to vote.

You can contact me by email or at the following address:

Yours sincerely,

Denis Walker

6 Jun 2008

Subject: Re: Stop the biofuels targets
   Date: 10 June 2008 15:15:48 BST

Dear Mr Walker

Thank you for your letter concerning biofuels.

The Conservative Delegation in the European Parliament has supported the development of biofuels as they provide an alternative to fossil fuels and hence reduce Europe’s dependency on foreign nations for its energy needs. Conservative Agricultural Spokesperson and Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Neil Parish MEP, was the Rapporteur of a European Parliament report on biofuels in 2004.

As a member of the International Trade, Agriculture and Environment Committees, I believe that it is essential that Europe sets targets to encourage Member States to develop policy which fosters a sustainable energy mix. I therefore support the Commission’s decision to pursue the 10% target of biofuels by 2020. First generation biofuels such as bioethanol derived from corn have received increasingly bad press over the last few months. Their green credentials have been questioned and at a time when food prices are rising, it therefore seems inappropriate to use food crops for non-food purposes. Furthermore, as you have pointed out, some studies show that biofuels can attribute to deforestation, ‘leakage’ and social problems caused by land rights conflicts.

It is true that rainforest has been cleared in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil to make way for the production of palm oil. It must be pointed out, however, that only a small proportion of palm oil from these areas is used in biofuels. About 85% of palm oil goes to make food and 8% to the pharmaceutical industry; I do not therefore believe that biofuels alone should be made the scapegoat for the deforestation that is occurring in these areas. Nevertheless, we must reduce the incentives for people to engage in these activities. There will be little point in the EU reaching mandatory biofuels targets if the world’s rainforests are devastated in the process. We are therefore looking at ways in which this problem can be addressed; however there is no simple answer. Tariffs on the importation of Brazilian biofuels are already very high, and it may be difficult for the EU to continue to justify these on environmental or deforestation grounds within the WTO. In addition, whilst bans on production linked to deforestation and pollution are also enticing, we may also face practical difficulties here on the implementation of such bans within the world trading system.

To counteract these difficulties, I strongly believe that second generation biofuels are worth pursuing in order to meet EU targets. This involves using products such as wood, straw, and even sewage or manure to create fuel, which would not only ease the pressure on land use and on food prices, but would also offer enormous carbon savings. World food prices have indeed been affected by the biofuel boom, especially since countries such as the US are using more than a quarter of their agricultural land for maize intended for bioethanol production. I must add however that the main reason for the rise in food prices has been the changing eating habits in countries such as India and China, which has led to a huge demand for grain at a time when harvests have been poor worldwide. Nevertheless, it is essential that European farmers fulfill their primary duty and produce enough food to meet demand. Therefore the EU should invest in research and development of second generation biofuels so as not to hamper this objective.

I strongly support Mr Parish’s stance on biofuels. We should promote the development of a biofuels industry within the EU, whilst putting in place a system of tariffs on Brazilian biofuels and if possible, a ban on Indonesian palm oil produced from illegal logging or associated with deforestation. In addition, I believe that we should develop and maintain an accreditation scheme to ensure that all biofuels that come from outside the EU come from sustainable sources and only those that qualify for that scheme should be allowed in to the EU. Given the potential benefits of second generation biofuels, I believe that a moratorium on the Biofuels Directive would send the wrong signal on our intentions to move away from our dependency on highly polluting mineral oils.

Yours sincerely

Robert Sturdy MEP

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