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Biofuels

Volume 406: debated on Monday 9 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which Department is responsible for co-ordinating Government policy on the development of the use of biofuels. [117542]

The Department for Transport is responsible for co-ordinating overall Government policy on the use of biofuels in the transport sector. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is, however, responsible for policy on all taxation issues, including duty incentives for biofuels.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what preparations his Department is making for the introduction of the Biofuels Directive later this year; and if he will make a statement. [117543]

The United Kingdom and other European Union member states are required, under the terms of the recently agreed Directive on the Promotion of Biofuels and other Renewable Fuels for Road Transport, to set their own indicative targets for the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels in their areas. Member states are required to set indicative targets to be met in the years 2005 and 2010, and to notify the European Commission of these targets by July 2005 and July 2006 respectively. The Government will consult key stakeholders in due course on possible indicative targets for biofuels sales and sales of other renewable fuels in the UK, as well as on the most appropriate ways of meeting these targets. Regulations will then be laid before the House in advance of the Directive's transposition date of 31 December 2004.The Government have already put in place a number of measures to incentivise the production and use of biofuels in the UK. These include a 20 pence per litre fuel duty incentive for biodiesel, which came into effect in July 2002. Sales of biodiesel in the UK have increased significantly as a result of this, and are now getting on for a million litres a month. Budget 2003 announced that a similar duty incentive in favour of bioethanol would come into effect in January 2005. It also indicated that the Government are considering how best to give further support to bioethanol produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks, which potentially offers even greater environmental benefits.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which Minister in his Department is responsible for developing transport policy on the use of biofuels. [117589]

The Secretary of State for Transport has overall responsibility for developing all transport policies, including policies on biofuels. He is supported in this by myself and by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to investigate the basis on which car manufacturers impose a lower limit for the use of biofuels in the UK than in the rest of the EU for the purposes of the engine warranty. [117593]

Almost all new diesel cars can run on biodiesel without any problems and without invalidating the manufacturer's engine warranty, provided that the biodiesel is blended into mineral diesel at a ratio of no more than 5 per cent. biodiesel to 95 per cent. mineral diesel, and provided that the biodiesel itself is of good quality. Higher rates of biodiesel in blends could cause performance problems and engine damage in some vehicles and would currently invalidate most vehicle manufacturer's vehicle warranties, both in the UK and elsewhere.The suitability of any diesel vehicle to run on blends consisting of more than 5 per cent. biodiesel is dependent upon the make and model of the car, rather than the country in which it is sold and used. For example, new Volkswagen diesel cars are warranted to run on 100 per cent. biodiesel anywhere in the EU. Supplies of 100 per cent. biodiesel are not widely available in the UK, however, and studies show that a greater environmental benefit can be achieved by using the available fuel in blends with mineral diesel than by using it as 100 per cent. biodiesel.Bioethanol, which can be used as a blend in petrol cars, is not yet on sale in the UK. Budget 2003 announced that a duty incentive for bioethanol of 20 pence per litre would be introduced in January 2005. Ford has developed a 'flex-fuel' petrol-engined vehicle, which can run on blends of up to 85 per cent. bioethanol, and which is already on sale in some other European countries (notably Sweden). Once bioethanol becomes available in the UK, it is likely that similar vehicles will be sold here, with similar warranties.