UK Farmers Lobby for Greener Future

National Farmer's Union wants government backing for biodiesel and bioethanol fuels, which are cleaner and cheaper than conventional fuels, the crops for which can be easily grown in the UK.

Published: 04-Jan-2005

N id=main1>Westcountry farmers can play a crucial role in helping to achieve UK climate change targets, the Government has been told.

The National Farmers' Union is lobbying for commitments from ministers which would help the industry take new technologies forward. It particularly wants government backing for biodiesel and bioethanol fuels, which are cleaner and cheaper than conventional fuels, the crops for which can be easily grown in the UK.

NFU deputy president Peter Kendall told the WMN South West farmers were ideally placed to grow wheat, which can be transformed into bioenthanol, as well as other "green fuels" like miscanthus, a perennial grass which can be used in biomass plants.

What was lacking, he said, was commitment from the Government, which would help farmers and developers invest in the new technology.

"We want a long-term commitment from the Government which means people can go out and find the finance with confidence under, say, a ten-year timespan," he said.

In the UK there is a surplus of four million tonnes of wheat, Mr Kendall said, which could be used to produce biofuels. It is currently exported around the world.

Mr Kendall said that a UK biofuels market could easily absorb that surplus, reducing CO? emissions through car use as well as cutting emissions when the produce was flown elsewhere.

Biodiesel - some 10p per litre cheaper than conventional fuel - can be made from waste vegetable oil or rape seed oil and mixed directly with diesel. Bioethanol made from wheat or sugar beet can be mixed with petrol at fuel distribution points. The fuels can be used by conventional diesel and petrol vehicles respectively.

Both offer around 60 per cent lower emissions of the greenhouse gases that have been blamed for climate change, than conventional petrol and diesel.

In Germany 150,000 vehicles running on bio-diesel account for 20 per cent of all diesel sales. Bio-diesel sales make up less than 0.1 per cent of sales in the UK.

"There is going to be radical change from January 1 because of Common Agricultural Policy reform," Mr Kendall said. "Farmers want to have real markets for crops that are in demand. In that way biofuels are being seen as a real opportunity.

"The NFU is investing a lot of resources on this issue which we think will be an enormous part of the industry in the future. We can see why farmers are excited about it and we want the public to have that opportunity as well. If the Government mean to make a play to the world on climate change then it needs to be setting a really good example at home."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said a Climate Change and Agriculture seminar was being held on February 7 "to concentrate thoughts and explore the range of policy mechanisms which might be used to support adaptation strategies".

He said: "Over the coming decades, agriculture worldwide will face the challenge of climate change, in addition to developments in social, environmental and agricultural policy. The farming industry has a long history of showing itself capable of responding to changing influences and of implementing adaptations and innovations as circumstances change."

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