DfT cuts biofuel carbon savings

The government has cut its targets for greenhouse gas savings from biofuels under the renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO)

The Department for Transport made the announcement today in its response to a consultation on the RTFO’s carbon and sustainability reporting requirements.

Under the obligation, fuel suppliers have to blend a growing proportion of biodiesel or bioethanol into their fuel from April 2008, to reach 5% by 2010.

Last year, the government set voluntary targets for the level of greenhouse gas savings biofuels should achieve under the RTFO. These were 40% in 2008/09 rising to 60% in 2010/11.

However, the DfT today said the target for 2010/11 should be reduced to 50%. A higher target could not be met using “known sustainable feedstocks” for biofuels, it said. To meet a higher target, companies would have to use biofuels made from feedstocks like Malaysian palm oil. These are linked to the rainforest destruction and the draining of peatlands.

Reducing the 60% target means the possible carbon savings from the RTFO have dropped yet again – and may be as little as half those originally envisaged.

The scheme was estimated to save 1 million tonnes of carbon a year by 2010 when first proposed. Last year, this was downgraded to between 700,000 and 800,000 tonnes to take account of the effect of biofuels on the fuel efficiency of cars.

However, if only a 50% saving is achieved, this decreases even further to between 580,000 and 660,0000 tonnes of carbon a year. The DfT does not mention this in its response.

No significant changes have been made to the reporting requirements themselves.

The Renewable Fuels Agency, the body set up to run the RTFO, will publish the final reporting requirements shortly.

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