General conclusions on land use
109. The UK's wheat surplus is currently exported
(see paragraph 92 above). According to the Biosciences Federation
and the Royal Society of Chemistry, the UK could meet the 5% RTFO
target solely through domestic production by using this surplus
to produce bioethanol, and by growing oilseed rape on all UK set-aside
land to produce biodiesel.
This is supported by the NFU.
The Biosciences Federation and the Royal Society of Chemistry
go on to say, however, that ultimately "UK capacity to produce
biofuels is limited to 5-10% of the total transport fuel demand".
They maintain that the 'best use' of land in terms of carbon savings
is in growing crops for heat and electricity generation rather
than for transport fuel.
As Dr Woods (representing the Biosciences Federation and the Royal
Society of Chemistry) explained, emissions from the transport
sector need to be addressed in the short term, and biofuels are
currently the only available means to do so. However, in terms
of the bioenergy mix, he stated that:
it is really too early to start picking between
the sectors and to say, yes, we should in effect abandon one of
the sectors in preference for the other.
at the moment
we are not anywhere near the limits of the resources
110. This stance is supported by Graham Hilton from
the Energy Crops Company, who argued that extracting biofuels
and biomass from the same crop was a distinct possibility:
The first is that it is not either or; there is actually
a very heavy interplay between the two. For instance, there is
a significant amount of straw generated by growing wheat for bio-ethanol,
and the varieties of wheat that produce the highest starch and
therefore the highest alcohol yield also have the longest straw,
also have the lowest nitrogen fertiliser input, so there is a
real win-win available in this.
111. The NFU concludes in its supplementary evidence
that the "synergy between biomass crops and other renewables
such as biofuels has yet to be fully explored in this country.
These two markets should not be viewed as competing uses but as
complementary parts of the renewable energy package".
112. Defra acknowledges the complex relationship
between the costs and benefits of prioritising one source of bioenergy
it is recognised that if you take the comparisons
in terms of the given amount of land that you have available for
use for either of these purposes, the consensus would be that
using the land to produce biomass for energy generation, and in
particular heat, is significantly better than using the same amount
of land for biofuel.
[but] it is necessary
the state of development
the potential uptake and the results
of using different types of policy mechanisms
in the transport sector will have
an immediate and dramatic
effect across the economy.
over land use are at the heart of bioenergy policy. We are concerned
by the implications of the Government's claim that "by 2050
the UK could produce as much as one third of its transport energy
needs" from renewable sources. We recommend that the Government
make clear in its response to our report the evidenceand
assumptions made in relation to land useto support this
claim. Biofuels for transport currently offer an important way
to reduce carbon emissions from the growing transport sector,
but increased production may have an adverse effect on food production
and biodiversity. If the Government goes ahead with the increase
in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation beyond 5%, as proposed
in the Energy Review, there may be serious UK land use implications.
Exploiting the 'dual-functionality' of crops to provide both food
and bioenergy may go some way to mitigating this.
crops used for heat and electricity can have a positive impact
on biodiversity, and offer greater carbon savings per hectare,
but in the case of short rotation coppice, are costly to establish
and yield no output for four years. They therefore require considerable
investor confidence. Whilst we recognise that the complex matrix
of advantages and disadvantages relating to the various uses of
arable land precludes any simple choice between sources, the Government
must act now to help reconcile and rationalise these apparent
inconsistencies in order to maximise carbon savings.