Efficient biofuels can have a vital role to play in fighting climate change, says Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion ahead of a vote on the EU Biofuels directive due next week.
The farmer and West Midlands MEP says there is a debate to be had on targets for the use of biofuel, but the issues are not as clear cut as campaign groups such as Action Aid suggest.
In a letter to newspapers across the region, Phil Bennion MEP says:
"While some biofuels are inefficient and wasteful, others are not and do offer a realistic way of cutting down on fossil fuel burning, which we must do to fight climate change.
"Banning biofuels or even reducing their use will force us to use more fossil fuel instead. We cannot ignore the need to cut demand for fossil hydrocarbons used in liquid fuels such as petrol, diesel or kerosene. In only a few decades time all liquid fuels will have to be 100% renewable – getting to that point is an enormous technical and logistical challenge. Biofuels can help us in this aim.
"I have discussed this at length with Action Aid campaigners. They have no proposal as to how to replace the fossil element in liquid fuels. As a Lib Dem MEP I am totally committed to a sustainable future economy, food supply and environment – but I do not think this means putting one priority ahead of all others, regardless of the consequences. We need to get the balance right.
"We should beware of setting the limit on biofuel use below the figure which industry has already invested to produce, at the behest of elected governments. We will have no chance of getting private firms to invest in green energy in future if politicians first coerce them into spending billions, then move the goalposts to make those investments worthless."
Phil Bennion also highlighted the effects of cutting biofuel production. A reduction in the availability of temperate protein concentrates, to use the scientific term, will actually increase pressure on rainforests as demand for soya accelerates.
"As a farmer myself, I share concerns about the possible impact of biofuels on food prices, though studies show the impact to be small. I do however agree that the American system of forcing maize farming down the biofuel route even in times of food shortage is ridiculous and exacerbates price spikes.
"The EU does have a continuing responsibility to foster efficient and sustainable food production, both in the EU and globally, but that does not mean that any support for non-food crops is a bad thing.
"Parliament is now back in session and I am following the debate closely. In the vote next week, Lib Dems will support the best possible environmental outcome as a whole."