Biofuels driving green jobs and growth in the UK economy

REA welcomes opening of Vivergo bioethanol plant But EU proposals to be voted on this week could jeopardise future investments

The REA welcomes the opening today of Vivergo's bioethanol plant at Saltend, near Hull. The plant's development has already created and supported over 1,000 jobs, and will result in 80 full time, highly skilled jobs at the site. As well as producing 420 million litres of renewable transport fuel every year, the £350 million plant will also become the UK's largest single source supplier of animal feed, generating 500,000 tonnes of animal feed co-products annually for use by UK livestock farmers [1].

REA Head of Renewable Transport Clare Wenner said:

"This is a very exciting day for the UK green economy. The biofuels developed here in the UK are among the most sustainable in the world in terms of greenhouse gas savings. Vivergo is a fantastic exemplar for the industry, not just for their commitment to producing sustainable fuel and food, but also for their commitment to developing the skills and manufacturing base here in the UK. Vivergo's decision to recruit and train employees directly through the local Job Centre, in partnership with Hull College, saw them shortlisted for an REA Skills Development Award this year."

Today's good news for the UK's green economy comes as the European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI) is preparing to vote this Thursday on proposals to reduce EU renewable transport targets, on the grounds that greenhouse gases may be released indirectly as a result of land that is currently not cultivated coming into production – a phenomenon known n as indirect land use change (ILUC) [2]. The original proposals recommended an immediate limit to the contribution of crop-based biofuels to EU transport energy at 5% and the incorporation of 'ILUC factors' into greenhouse gas calculations to account for notional additional emissions.

However, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), who is jointly leading on this issue with ENVI in the European Parliament, voted recently in favour of a specific 2020 advanced biofuels target and a 6.5% crop-based biofuels cap, and against the incorporation of controversial ‘ILUC factors' [3].

Clare Wenner said:

"The science of ILUC is too uncertain to introduce theoretical 'ILUC factors'- and it certainly cannot be used to justify calling into question major investments in our jobs and our industry. Calculating the correct factors is both impossible to do accurately, as it involves heroic assumptions about future land use changes, and also imposes an unfair penalty on biofuel developers, who are not the direct cause of the problem.

"No other land using industry is being forced to account for ILUC, and biofuels, which are the only viable way of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our transport, should not be used as a guinea pig for ILUC accounting. Singling out crop-based biofuels would ultimately be counter-productive, as the biofuels market has been a great stimulus for investment in agriculture, which is critical if the world is to feed a growing population.

"Improving agricultural practices and productivity for all land-using industries is the only reasonable way to resolve the ILUC issue. We hope therefore that the ENVI Committee takes the recommendations of the ITRE Committee very seriously when the vote is taken on Thursday."

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