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UK Mandates 5% Renewable Fuel for Vehicles by 2010

The UK’s Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), announced today by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, will require that 5% of all UK retail fuel come from a renewable source by 2010. A 5% level would represent a 20-fold increase in biofuels sales over current amounts.

The benefits in 2010, according to a feasibility study published by the Government, would be a reduction of around 1 million metric tons of carbon per year: between 2%–3% of transport emissions.

The feasibility study also looks ahead to a “second generation” of biofuels by 2020 that would use lower-value feedstocks such as straw and even organic waste materials. Those fuels, notes the government, offer even higher levels of carbon savings, and potentially lower costs, and could provide a steppingstone to renewably-produced hydrogen.

Taking action to tackle climate change is essential. The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation I am proposing today is predicted to save around 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2010—the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road. Carbon savings could also increase in future years. This will help reduce the impact of transport on climate change, and bring environmental benefits for us all.

I am determined that transport should play its part in addressing the threat of climate change. Making vehicles more efficient and investing in public transport are important aspects of our strategy, but renewable fuels are equally important. This Obligation is vital in continuing to promote a shift towards cleaner, low carbon road transport.

—Transport Secretary Darling

To ensure that biofuels are sourced sustainably, the Government proposes to develop a carbon and sustainability assurance scheme as part of the obligation. Obligated companies would be required to report on the level of carbon savings achieved and on the sustainability of their supplies.

The UK currently supports biofuels through a 20 pence per liter ($1.32 per gallon US) tax incentive. This has stimulated sales of around 10 million liters (2.64 million gallons US) a month—0.25% of all road fuel sales.

The government will set up a certification and credit trading mechanism as part of the RTFO. An oil company will receive certificates from an administrator to demonstrate how much biofuel it has sold. If the company sells more than its 5% obligation, it would then be able to sell those certificates to other companies who need more to meet the obligation.



Harvey D

Two different worlds. A $1.32/gal tax redcution on ethanol in the UK and a $0.50/gal (50 cents) import tax on Brazilain ethanol in the USA.


We can make all we need. BioDiesel too.

We just need someone besides bushit to get the ball rolling.


I still wonder whether carbon savings is real. What about all the petroleum they are going to use to produce and process these products? What about the fertilizer? And what is the use of this land before it is converted to biofuels production? Sure, you're taking carbon out of the air when you grow the crops. But maybe you were already. And maybe you're better off sequestering the carbon by plowing the residue under.

I fear that biofuels may be a way to pretend we're actually doing something about carbon dioxide emissions. And are we sure this biofuel will be used as a substitute, not as a complement? Won't demand respond to increased supply, thus cancelling out some of the savings?

Any useful program needs to ensure that petroleum use is actually reduced in proportion to biofuel production. That's assuming, of course, that biofuels are really cutting carbon, which I think very much depends on the situation.


If Brazilian ethanol is made at the price of turning the Amazon basin into a desert, a 50¢ tax on it is too low.

Tripp Bisop

There are plenty of ways to reduce the fossil fuel input in Ethanol production. There are 3 new 100ma gal/yr facilities which use cow manure to biogas to supply their energy requirements. A byproduct of this is fertilizer (anerobically digested poo is a high quality fertilizer). Furthermore, if you run the farm equipment on En (where n between 10 and 100) fuel blends, then the fossil fuel input is lower still. Then if you consider cellulose ethanol I would bet that the fossil inputs are even lower.

I agree with Eng-poet that biofuels, if poorly conceived/managed, can be an eco nightmare. The onus is on us to do it right while looking for even better alternatives to our energy problems. I don't ever see biofuels being the complete solution, but they can certainly play a part.


If you run the farm equipment on En and the En is produced at a net energy loss, then it seems like you are further in the hole. Or is Pimental completely off base?


One should turn mega desert into mega biofuel plantation, not forest into desert. And that's what we called CO2 reduction.

Tripp Bisop

Pimetal is off base. If he'd use modern techniques in his analysis instead making assumptions based on older less efficient techniques then he'd get different numbers.

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