Warning over biofuels carbon 'risk'

Campaigners have called for European biofuel plans to be scrapped saying the cost of destroying forests as part of the process would far outweigh any savings made on carbon emissions.

They warn that greenhouse gas emissions because of the destroyed woodland would be up to six time higher than from petrol.

A project aimed at mass cultivation of jatropha plant, which is used to produce 'green' fuel, could see up to thousands of hectares of Kenya's Dakatcha Woodlands cleared.

Biofuel made from the plant's seeds is expected to generate power and heating for homes in the east African nation and in Europe.

RSPB, ActionAid and Nature Kenya, who are campaigning against the project, say it will affect around 20,000 people who depend on the forestland for their livelihood and result in the loss of habitat for many threatened wildlife species.

EU targets that aim to ensure renewable sources account for 10% of all transport fuels mean the biofuel will also be used to run cars, the report claims.

In the UK, biofuels already make up 3.5% of the diesel and petrol sold on forecourts, but much of it does not measure up to voluntary sustainability standards.

Biofuels are supposed to deliver savings in greenhouse gas emissions because they use renewable crops such as oilseed rape and sugar cane instead of fossil fuels.

But a report by the campaigners warned that because of the woodland and scrubland that will be cleared to make way for the plantations, the emissions associated with the project could be 2.5 to six times higher than fossil fuel equivalents.

The groups are calling for subsidies and targets for biofuels to end and the plans for Dakatcha Woodlands to be abandoned.

Copyright © Press Association 2011