Environmental Audit Committee

13 November 2007




NEW EVIDENCE SESSION

Are biofuels sustainable?

This is the second evidence session on Are biofuels sustainable? Further evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

Tuesday 20 November, Grimond Room, Portcullis House

10.20am
Julie Foley, Head of Sustainable Development and Amanda Barratt, Regulation Policy Advisor, Environment Agency

Marcus Yeo, Director of Resources & External Affairs and Jessica Magnus, EU Policy Adviser, The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

11.10am
Peter Kendall, President & Guy Gagen, Head of Combinable Crops, National Farmers Union (NFU)
Greg Archer, Director & Jessica Chalmers, Programme Manager, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership

11:40am
Professor Richard Bateman, Head of Policy, and Professor Roland Clift, Biosciences Federation
Dr Dominick Spracklen, Institute for Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds

The Committee normally meets in a committee room at Westminster. These sessions are open to the public on a first come, first served basis. There are often last minute changes of room and meetings may be held either in the Palace of Westminster or in Portcullis House. Those wishing to attend should check the venue by calling the committee office information line the day before the hearing on 020 7219 2033.

Notes for Editors:

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) announced its inquiry into biofuels on 25 July 2007 and the role that they might play in addressing the key issues of fuel security and climate change. This inquiry follows the recent publication of the United Nations report Sustainable Bioenergy: A Framework for Decision Makers, which stressed the need for the development of a biofuel strategy to minimise the potential for negative environmental and social impacts. This inquiry by the EAC will:

  • explore the wider economic, social and environmental impacts of biofuels;

  • examine the role biofuels might play in improving fuel security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions;

  • review the policy arrangements for biofuels; and

  • explore whether safeguards are in place in order to minimise negative social and environmental impacts.

Biofuels are fuels derived from non-fossil organic matter. These include liquid biofuels such as biodiesel and biogas, each of which have different applications in transport. Global production of biofuels is doubling every few years. Brazil and China have already 50 million acres of land given over to their production. This expansion of biofuel production, encouraged in part by targets in the EU and the US, could have widespread positive and negative social and environmental impacts beyond possible lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Positive impacts could include the stabilisation of oil prices, increased fuel security, the opening of new markets, new energy sources for developing countries and higher commodity prices for the poor.‚ Negative impacts might include biodiversity loss, soil erosion, nutrient leaching and increased carbon emissions from inappropriate land clearance. Concerns have also been raised about food security, as a large agricultural shift to fuel production might dramatically increase food prices and increase pressure on small farmers in both developed and developing countries.

It has been reported that some negative impacts of biofuel production are already being felt. For example, there have been protests in Mexico following an 80% increase in corn prices and a 40% increase in wheat prices due to the combined factors of drought in Australia and a dramatic increase in bioethanol usage in the US. There are also concerns that biofuel demand is stimulating in the tropics the destruction of rainforest as it is cleared for palm oil plantations.

Details of all the Committee press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committees Internet home page, which can be found at: www.parliament.uk/eacom