UK - Consumers ignorant of biofuel law


In the UK, the majority of Britons don't realise that ethanol-based biofuel will be added to petrol - starting April 15 - according to a Friends of the Earth study.

Eighty-nine per cent of respondents were ignorant of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation - based on EU regulations - which calls for all petrol sold to comprise 2.5 per cent biofuels as of 15 April. Of those that were aware of the new rules, 78 per cent said the UK government should tackle vehicle emissions by improving public transport or making vehicles more fuel-efficient.

The survey of just over 2,000 adults, conducted online by YouGov, claims to be the first public-opinion survey into the RTFO.

Environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth, oppose the use of biofuels grown from crops like rapeseed and corn, because of knock-on problems. They say such biofuels increase greenhouse gas emissions through land conversion and greater use of chemical fertilisers, push up food prices because agricultural land is devoted to fuel-growing and contribute to the destruction of forests as more land is converted to agriculture.

In March, a coalition of environmental groups wrote to UK Transport Minister Ruth Kelly urging her to delay the RFTO.

The EU Directive to add an increasing proportion of biofuel to petrol - up to 10 per cent by 2020 - was established in 2003. Since then, a number of eminent voices have joined the debate on the side of the environmentalists - among them Professor Robert Watson, chief scientist at Defra and Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen.

"Most people will be horrified to know the government is putting biofuels in petrol [if they knew that] damage to forests could make climate change worse" - said Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner.

"People want to see real green transport solutions that will make a difference to their lives - like better public transport and smarter cars that burn less fuel."