Food price rises force biofuel U-turn

A A A

Soaring world food prices look set to force Gordon Brown into a U-turn over the use of crops such as corn, rapeseed, palm and soya to produce fuel as an alternative to petrol and diesel.

Biofuels were seen as the eco-friendly answer to global warming and rising fuel prices but a report to be published on Monday will force the Prime Minister to rethink his support for using crops to keep Britain's cars and lorries running.

A second report will also force Downing Street to revise its policies on food and the environment – opening Mr Brown to the charge from environmental groups of going soft on the Government's green agenda.

The Prime Minister has been warned in a report by Professor Ed Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency, that the rush for biofuels has made a "significant" contribution to the soaring cost of food on the global markets. Corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from vegetable oil were widely seen as important ways of creating fuel and combating carbon emissions which contribute to global warming.

The Gallagher review threatens to knock out an important plank in Mr Brown's environmental strategy. He introduced targets in April in Britain requiring all petrol and diesel to contain 2.5 per cent of biofuels with the intention of doubling it to 5 per cent by 2010. The EU is contemplating a 10 per cent target by 2020. Professor Gallagher's report will say the production of fuels from "biomass" – non-food crops – may be sustainable but it challenges the targets for producing fuel from other crops normally used for food.

Greenpeace said biofuels initially "looked good on paper" but the Gallagher review would conclude that the risks are too great to impose higher targets.

The campaign group called for a moratorium on targets, subsidies and tax breaks for biofuels consumption until it was clear that they could be produced from sustainable sources. Oxfam said: "It is clear that any additional pressure on limited land resources has the potential to drive further agriculture clearance of forests or other habitats and to drive up food prices."

The vast majority of the European biodiesel was made from rapeseed oil, said Oxfam. "As we divert more and more rapeseed crop into fuel, European industry is buying increasing supplies of edible oils from overseas including palm oil.

A second report by the Cabinet Office strategy unit is intended to launch a debate over how Britain uses its land more effectively to produce more food.

In a further blow to the Prime Minister's "green" strategy, ministers are preparing to respond to the pressure from motorists – led by haulage owners who staged a noisy protest around Westminster this week – by bringing forward the announcement by the Chancellor Alistair Darling that the 2p rise in fuel duty in October will be scrapped.

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there