Theresa Villiers MP, Shadow Transport Secretary, responds to Labour’s review of its commitment to steadily increase the proportion of the transport fuel accounted for by biofuels (BBC report). Here are three highlights of her contribution.
The Tories were right to oppose the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation: "The Opposition have been telling the Government for months to think again on their biofuels policy. The Conservatives were the only political party to vote against the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). Although we believe that biofuels can have a role to play in tackling climate change, there must be safeguards to ensure that they come from sustainable sources and we must address the impact of biofuel production on land use and food prices. Frankly, the RTFO does neither of those things, and the statement provides only limited reassurance. The RTFO has come under sustained attack from groups such as Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Society and the Environmental Audit Committee, and today the Government’s own Gallagher report confirms that biofuel targets set by the Government could lead to unsustainable changes in land use, higher food prices and a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions."
Biofuel production is causing deforestation abroad: "The rain forest is under threat right now, and the habitat of orangutans is being wiped out right now by palm oil plantations… Will the Secretary of State tell us how many litres of biofuel covered by the RTFO have been imported since its inception in April, and from which countries? What can she tell us about the source of those imports? Were any of them instrumental in deforestation? How many of them are made up of palm oil, a substance that Friends of the Earth says has been responsible for 87% of the recent destruction of the rain forest in Malaysia and Indonesia? Why did she introduce the RTFO before conducting a thorough assessment of the impact of the displacement of crops to areas where they could cause deforestation?"
Farmers have no security from the RTFO policy: "[The Government’s] RTFO biofuels policy is a failure. It has failed industry and farming, because the uncertainty caused by Government dithering is jeopardising investments, not only in existing programmes but in second generation biofuels and in renewable and green technology generally. It has failed the poor of the developing world because it was introduced without safeguards to tackle the problems that are caused when biofuel crops compete with food production. It has failed the environment because it contains no effective measures to guarantee that the biofuels it promotes come from sustainable sources."