Biofuels 'six times worse' for emissions than petrol
Published 22/03/2011 | 05:00
Biofuels aimed at the European market could produce up to six times the emissions of petrol because of the forests they will destroy, campaigners warned last night.
The RSPB, ActionAid and Nature Kenya have criticised plans to clear thousands of hectares of the Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya to make way for plantations of jatropha, which can be used to make "green" fuels.
They warn clearing the forests will generate far more carbon emissions than using fossil fuels, will damage the livelihoods of 20,000 people who rely on the woodlands and destroy the habitats of a number of threatened species.
Fuel produced from the seeds of the jatropha plant will be used to generate "green" heat and electricity in Kenya and Europe.
But the campaigners say they could also be used to make biofuels for European vehicles to meet EU targets on transport fuels -- 10pc of all transport fuels are to come from renewable sources by 2020.
Biofuels already make up 3.5pc of the diesel and petrol sold on forecourts.
Biofuels are supposed to deliver savings in greenhouse gas emissions because they use renewable crops, such as oilseed rape and sugar cane, instead of fossil fuels.
But a report by the campaigners warned that because of the woodland and scrubland that would be cleared to make way for the plantations, the emissions associated with the project could be up to six times higher than fossil fuel equivalents.
The groups are calling for subsidies and targets for biofuels to be scrapped and the plans for Dakatcha Woodlands to be abandoned.
Dr Helen Byron, the RSPB's Kenya expert, said: "The Dakatcha Woodlands are a haven for wildlife and the threat they face is a direct result of European demand for biofuels.
"The proposed plantation is just one example of the disastrous but unseen impact of biofuels on the climate, nature and people."
She called on ministers to adopt an ambitious programme to reduce emissions from cars through improving efficiency and a large-scale rollout of electric vehicles.
Tim Rice, ActionAid's biofuels expert, said: "Biofuels are far from the miracle climate cure they were thought to be.
"Crucially, the Dakatcha case also shows how biofuel plantations can create huge social upheaval with whole communities losing their land, homes and jobs."