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Transport: Fuels

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) evidence she has evaluated and (b) research she has commissioned, on the whole life carbon emission consequences of the replacement of fossil fuels by biofuels for transportation purposes; and if she will make a statement. (199413)

In 2005 the Government undertook a detailed feasibility study into the practicality of introducing an obligation for renewable transport fuel. As part of this study, the Government took into account a wide range of scientific evidence on the costs and benefits of biofuels including Government-funded studies by Sheffield Hallam university and the Central Science Laboratory considering the lifecycle benefits and impacts of biofuels. Research published by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in association with the European Council for Automotive Research and Development (EUCAR) and the Oil Companies' European Organisation for Environment, Health and Safety (CONCAWE) on biofuels and other potential future transport fuels was also taken into account.

In 2006, the Government commissioned the development of a carbon calculation methodology for biofuels to underpin the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). This included proposed default carbon saving assumptions for a variety of biofuels, taking account of evidence from a wide range of scientific studies.

In 2007, Defra commissioned AEA Technology to undertake a review of work on the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and environmental sustainability of international biofuels production and use. Their report is due to be published shortly.

The Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) is also currently leading a review of evidence of the wider environmental and economic effects of biofuels. Part of this review will include a study examining the evidence concerning the GHG emissions arising from land-change, cultivation of biofuels, agricultural practices and advanced biofuel technologies. An initial report from the RFA is expected by 27 June including recommendations for further work.

The Government will continue to take into account new scientific evidence on the impacts of biofuels as it becomes available, and will continue to tailor their biofuel policies accordingly.