EU axe for plan to save petrol

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Brussels is secretly planning to scrap "green" policies devised to promote renewable energy as an alternative to petrol.

Brussels is secretly planning to scrap "green" policies devised to promote renewable energy as an alternative to petrol.

The proposals contained in confidential documents obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal that the European Commission wants to abandon its attempt at energy conservation and dump the only European programme designed to find renewable sources of fuels.

The revelation, which has sparked a furious row, comes as the worst of the British petrol crisis seems to be over.

Thousands of tankers were delivering fuel supplies yesterday and most filling stations were back in business, although heavy demand left large queues at garages.

But last night energy experts warned that the Brussels plans, which have been roundly condemned by environmentalists, will pave the way for further petrol crises.

Mark Johnson, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, described the abolition of the conservation programmes as "absolutely potty".

"Energy efficiency and the development of renewable sources are essential for providing secure supplies of fuel and for fighting the climate of change," he said.

"So long as we continue to rely on fossil fuels we will always be vulnerable, as we have seen, to a few large companies and demonstrators."

Despite the chaos, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yesterday insisted there would be no short-term reduction in fuel duty. Ministers wish to avoid appearing to give in to the demonstrators and any future price reductions are likely to coincide with measures ensuring that the crisis will not be repeated.

The internal Brussels document proposes the "discontinuation of the Save and Altener programmes."

Save is the only EU programme promoting energy conservation - with the task of stabilising the use of fuels by 2010 - and Altener is the only one supporting the development of renewable sources.

The proposal to abolish the programmes has come from the office of the Commissioner for Energy and Transport, Loyola Depallacio, a Spanish conservative who is accused by critics of being primarily interested in promoting the continued use of fossil fuels and the building of new nuclear power stations.

MEPs are now angrily planning to ask her to justify her plans before the European parliament's Committee of Trade, Industry and Energy this week.

The two programmes draw up and prepare legislation to be applied by all member states.

Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, who chairs an EU energy conservation committee, said yesterday: "These plans would be ludicrous at any time, but are particularly so now. Energy conservation and renewable sources are a solution to the disruption that has hit Britain and many European countries over the last week. Scrapping these programmes would pave the way for a new crisis."

He pointed out that Europe is already well on the way to exceeding its energy conservation targets. Eleven years ago it undertook to be using no more energy in 2010 than it did in 1988. Consumption has already risen by 11 per cent.

Nuala Ahern, the vice chairman of the Trade, Industry and Energy Committee of the European parliament told The Independent on Sunday that the commissioner would be taken to task for her proposals on Tuesday when she meets the committee to talk about the oil crisis. She said: "The parliament is not going to accept this. It is absolutely extraordinary."