DEFRA chief scientist calls for caution on biofuels

A government chief scientist said on Monday that its biofuels policy – due to come into force in a fortnight – should be delayed

Environment Department (DEFRA) chief scientist Professor Robert Watson believes that the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation should be held back until the environmental impacts of biofuels can be ascertained.

Under the RTFO, fuel suppliers have to include a growing proportion of biodiesel or bioethanol in their fuel from 15 April, to reach 5% by 2010.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Watson said that the UK is probably a world leader in asking fuel suppliers for information about the environmental and social impacts of the biofuels they use. But asked “Is this an issue where indeed policy got ahead of evidence?”

“It’s now clear that while some sources of biofuels do appear to be potentially sustainable… others certainly are not,” he said. “It would obviously be totally insane if indeed we have a policy to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions…that’s actually leading to an increase.”

The government did not ask for his views on the RTFO, he added, but if it had he would have recommended delaying the policy’s introduction until the outcome of a Department for Transport study into land-use change caused by biofuels. The study was announced in February and is to be completed by the summer.

Also on Monday, a coalition of environmental and development NGOs including Greenpeace and Oxfam sent a letter to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly calling for the RTFO to be delayed until potential effects such as food price inflation, land use conflicts and carbon emissions can be evaluated.

Related Environmental Services

Powered by ENDS Directory

Compliance Search

Discover all ENDS content in one place, including legislation summaries to keep up to date with compliance deadlines

Compliance Deadlines

Plan ahead with our Calendar feature highlighting upcoming compliance deadlines

Most-read articles


Principal Planner

Leeds is a fast growing city and the main driver of a city region with a £64.6 billion economy.

Officer 2 Environment Team x 2

Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

Environment Team Leader

If you want a role that offers variety and challenge, and to be a part of an organisation that has the sustainable management of natural resources at the core of our purpose, we would love to hear from you.

Non-Executive Member to the Office for Environmental Protection

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is seeking to appoint a Non-Executive Member to the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

Installations Officer - Control of Major Accidents Hazards (COMAH)

We are looking for two enthusiastic professionals to join our North West Hub Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulatory team as Installations Officers.

Installation Officer

If you’re part of the Environment Agency (EA), you’re part of the solution. Working with us means protecting and improving the environment for generations to come, tackling issues of national importance across a huge variety of disciplines.

Sustainable Development Programme Manager

An exciting opportunity has arisen for a driven and motivated individual to join a forward thinking and dynamic Directorate within Public Health Wales.