Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2005-06

18 September 2006

18 September 2006


The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee today expresses concern at the degree to which the UK is lagging behind other countries in the promotion and use of bioenergy.

In their report on Climate change: the role of bioenergy, MPs say that heat derived from biomass (for example timber crops, miscanthus or chicken litter) could generate significant carbon savings, and urges the Government to increase support for biomass to match its current emphasis on biofuels for transport. The Committee also argues that Government policy focuses too heavily on renewable electricity at the expense of research into renewable heat. The Committee is also deeply disappointed that the Government failed to properly address the issue of biomass heat in its recent Energy Review.

On biofuels, the Government must do more to support the development of "second generation" or "advanced" biofuels, which could offer much greater carbon savings in the future than current biofuels. Second generation biofuels also have the added advantage of exploiting a wider range of biomass - such as waste organic materials - than current energy crops, and are thus less reliant on crops which are also used for food, such as wheat.

In terms of further bioenergy innovations, the MPs note the potential for running aircraft on "green" fuel - synthetic kerosene made from biomass. With aviation predicted to contribute around a quarter of the UK's climate change impact by 2030 and a third by 2050, the Committee is particularly concerned that the Government should pursue the latest green fuel technology and urges the Government to take immediate steps to support economically viable ways of producing synthetic kerosene from biomass.

For road transport too, the Government should be doing much more to encourage the development of biofuel technology which has the potential to make much greater carbon savings than is currently possible. The Committee also wants to ensure that the incentives and accreditation systems are in place to actually encourage only those technologies which reduce CO2 emissions.

The Committee's report argues that Government policy on this issue amounts to disjointed piecemeal incentives, allowances and grant schemes. The lack of ambition in this area of policy shown by the Government calls into question its whole commitment to the domestic climate change agenda. The Committee concludes that much more effective co-operation between departments is needed if the Government is to achieve its targets. The Committee is disappointed that there is still not a minister at Cabinet level whose job it is to co-ordinate climate change policy.

Speaking on publication of the Report, the Committee's Chairman, Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, said:

"With prizes like a green aviation fuel, ten per cent of our road fuels produced from renewable sources and the production of one per cent of the nation's heat demand from waste wood, the Government has got to show a much greater commitment, coherence and enthusiasm in the way it develops it bioenergy policies.

For a nation that prides itself on its international leadership role on the climate change agenda, it's not acceptable for Britain to lag behind so many other countries in the way that it is embracing bioenergy.

With Government a major user of energy in its own right, it must now lead by example and demonstrate to the rest of country the full potential of Britain's bioenergy industry".

- ENDS -


1. Definitions of technical terms used in the report and press release are included at the end of this press notice.

2. For media inquiries, or to arrange bids for the Chairman and other members of the EFRA Committee, Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, please call Laura Kibby on 07917 488 557. The following members of the Committee are also available for media interviews:

Lynne Jones MP (Labour, Birmingham Selly Oak)
Madeleine Moon MP (Labour, Bridgend)
Shailesh Vara MP (Conservative, North West Cambridgeshire)

3. For information about the Committee's inquiry, please call Matthew Hamlyn on 020 7219 3263. The full report, plus written and oral evidence taken in the inquiry, will be available on the Committee's website soon after 00.01 am on 18 September. Website: www.parliament.uk/efracom.

4. The Committee received written evidence from many interested parties. It took oral evidence from the Renewable Energy Association, the Biofuels Corporation, the Energy Crops Company, the UK Petroleum Industry Association, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Sir Ben Gill, the National Farmers' Union, the Biosciences Federation and the Royal Society of Chemistry, English Nature, Shell, Ford, Rolls-Royce and Defra. Transcripts of these evidence sessions can be found at:



Bioenergy is an inclusive term for all forms of biomass and biofuels.

In the context of the Committee's report:

Biomass is any biological mass derived from plant or animal matter (e.g. timber crops, miscanthus, straw, chicken litter and other waste material) used as a source of renewable heat or electricity.

Biofuels are renewable transport fuels:

- Bioethanol is an alcohol-based fuel resulting from the fermentation of either sugar or starch crops that have been converted into simple sugars. Common feedstocks include sugar cane and beet, wheat, barley and maize. Bioethanol is blended with petrol.

- Biodiesel is manufactured from virgin or waste vegetable oils€”commonly palm oil and rapeseed, or from animal fats. It acts as a substitute for conventional diesel.

- Biogas is made from landfill gas and other organic material.

- Bioethanol and biodiesel, as defined above, represent 'first generation' biofuels. More advanced or "second generation" transport fuels€”such as ligno-cellulosic ethanol and synthetic fuels produced using the Fischer-Tropsch process€”are currently in various stages of pre-commercial development. These are described in further detail in the report (see page 26).