NFU argues for balance in biofuels debate

Farming leader Peter Kendall has called for more balance and less bias in the debate over biofuels.

Speaking before the Sentry Farming Conference yesterday (5 February) the NFU president said that while biofuels were by no means a panacea for the world's renewable energy needs, they could and should have an important role to play.

"Biofuels have become the whipping boy of choice for the chattering classes and even for some within the farming community," said Kendall

"Never a week goes past without their being blamed for everything from destroying the environment to starvation in the developing world.

"Most of the criticism is exaggerated or just plain wrong. For example, 98 per cent of the palm oil production which is widely blamed for the destruction of the Malaysian rainforest and the orang-utans that live there is used for food and cosmetics, not biofuels.

"What is needed in this debate is a bit more balance and a bit less bias."

Kendall said that, as the leader of an organisation representing all types of farmers in a country where sustainability is at the very top of the political agenda, he could have no interest either in promoting a technology which was not environmentally sustainable.

"We would be irresponsible, as a society and as a sector, if we do not ensure that biofuels fulfil their potential in the fight against climate change," he added.

"The characterisation of this debate as 'food versus fuel' is typical of the misrepresentation that has been at work. Every tonne of wheat grown for biofuels produces a third of a tonne of bioethanol and a third of a tonne of animal feed. Our crops are more than capable of producing food and fuel.

"Biofuels are no panacea, but then nor are they the spawn of the devil. As the only renewable alternative to oil in transport fuels, they have an important role to play now - subject of course to environmental safeguards on how they are produced.

"All the indications are that they could make an even more valuable contribution in the future, as the technology is refined to make even bigger savings in greenhouse gas emissions.

"But we will deny ourselves the opportunity of benefiting from future technologies if, as some are demanding, we opt out from developing the industry now."