The Commons Environmental Audit Committee opposes biofuels

January 21, 2008 at 3:30 am | Posted in Biofuels, British Parliament, EAC, Environment, Environmental Audit Committee, House of Commons, Oxburgh, Transport, Yeo | 2 Comments

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: Listen Again to a snippet from this morning’s show regarding transport’s use of biofuels:


  • 0709 The Chancellor, Alastair Darling, has put forward his rescue plan for Northern Rock to the London Stock Exchange.
  • 0712 We report from the area in Afghanistan where the opium economy is healthiest, but this is also the place where the British forces are responsible.
  • 0719 The Environmental Audit Committee has joined the opposition to bio fuels.
  • 0722 The business news.
  • 0728 The sports news.

17:48 minutes into the programme we heard that the European Union (EU) is producing its updated climate change strategy this week, with a target of 10% for use of biofuels on the roads, but the Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is joining the opposition to biofuels in many respects, for reasons of this solution’s cost, inefficiency in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental impacts. (The unintended consequences of blindly chasing after alternative sources of energy are becoming clearer as food prices increase around the world.) Proponents say biofuels can be made to work.

Listen to the discussion with Conservative MP Tim Yeo, who chairs the cross-party Commons committee, and Lord Oxburgh, chairman of the biofuel company D1 Oils and former chairman of Shell, which ends like this:

22:00 Lord Oxburgh: “I think that the important thing is that if you kill the biofuels industry in Britain and Europe now—which is effectively what the committee is saying—you’re actually killing it for the future.”

Tim Yeo: But you’re also producing a beneficial environmental impact if you slow down this headlong mad rush into an unsustainable policy you’ll actually improve the impact on the environment you’ll also enormously improve the value-for-money achieved by the tax-payer because there are other better cheaper more effective ways of cutting carbon emissions.

22:30 Lord Oxburgh: “That might or might not be true, but the important thing is that the challenge of meeting transport fuel emissions is so great that we’re going to need everything, and there may or may not be cheaper ways of meeting that, but we’re going to need everything, the challenge is so big.

Tim Yeo: And there are ways of doing it without actually increasing the carbon concentration in the atmosphere.

22:50 End of discussion

Though I have not read them, the EAC report and supporting texts for this session are available here.



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  1. I’ve talked to Lord Oxburgh many times over extended periods. I would listen *very hard* to anything he says. I’d love to see anything else he says about this, because back-and-forth on the radio is not a very high-bandwidth mechanism.
    Recall that Lord Oxburgh spoke out rather clearly about climate change and peak oil when he was running Shell…
    This is not to support any random agricultural subsidy scheme, and many people know that current biofuels are not what they need to be …
    but island countries, ships? … well, maybe the Chunnel can get expanded a lot?

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that radio is low-bandwidth. I just heard the programme and this part stood out in the context of the discussions about expanding LHR in a low-carbon economy. When Lord Oxburgh emphasised the need for all solutions to combat climate change, he’s right, and that flies in the face of DfT proposals to add capacity at LHR.
    This past week, I have tried to get hold of a speech Lord Oxburgh made on this topic three years ago, but haven’t heard back from the guy who has a copy of the transcript yet …
    I only started looking into climate change a year ago, so I am catching up on the background to where we are now, and appreciate your comments very much.

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