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Government plans to increase the proportion of biofuels in UK petrol to meet the European Union's renewable energy target is not only contributing to land grabs and global hunger, but is also costing motorists more than the government had previously stated, according to ActionAid-commissioned research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
The government has underestimated the additional costs of biofuels due to inadequate price projection models used by various departments to calculate costs. This is in addition to the £1-1.8 billion extra cost to motorists as a result of the UK's biofuels policies that the IISD already documented in 2012.
Anders Dahlbeck, ActionAid's biofuels policy advisor, said:
"UK motorists are paying even more than previously thought for their petrol because of a misguided biofuels policy which at the same time contributes to global hunger.
"While 1 in 8 globally goes hungry, agricultural land is being diverted away from food production to produce biofuels around the world, including in this country. In the UK, we already use enough food as fuel annually to feed around 10 million people for a year."
Meanwhile, in sub-Saharan African six million hectares of land – 38 times the size of London – are now under the control of European companies seeking to make money from Europe's biofuel policies. Of the European companies that have invested in biofuels in Sub-Saharan Africa, 30 are from the UK.
The EU's renewable energy target, which requires 10 per cent of all energy used in EU transport to come from renewable sources by 2020, promotes biofuels as a greener alternative to fossil fuels. But research has shown that rather than cutting greenhouse gas emissions many biofuels increase them. IIDS estimates that the EU's biofuels policy could create carbon emissions equivalent to putting 26 million new cars on our roads by 2020.Dahlbeck added:
"The government must revise the model it uses to measure the costs of the UK's biofuels policies, but more importantly it must remove its damaging biofuels target and invest in renewable energy sources that do not contribute to global hunger.
"UK Members of the European Parliament must also use a vote on the future of biofuels in early September to cap the amount of biofuels coming from crops grown on land that could have grown food at no more than five per cent in petrol. Anything else would be to fail the millions of people living without enough food and unable to feed their families because of rising food prices, partly caused by biofuels."Download the ActionAid-commissioned report