Thursday, 24 April 2008

Brown slapped down by EU over biofuels

Gordon Brown is set to "push for changes" in EU biofuels targets if a government review launched in February shows that they are to blame for driving up food prices and environmental damage.

Quoted in a Reuters report filed at 12:43 today, the Prime Minister said "We need to look closely at the impact on food prices and the environment of different production methods and to ensure we are more selective in our support (for biofuels)."

"If our UK review shows that we need to change our approach, we will also push for change in EU biofuels targets," he said.

However in an embarrassing put-down a matter of hours later, a European Commission spokesman played down the prospects of change.

Quoted in a later EUobserver report filed at 18:07, a spokeman for Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said that the EU's executive stood by its target of getting 10% of road transport fuel from crops and agricultural waste by 2020.

Confirming that the Commission had requested its own study into links between biofuels policy and rising food prices, spokesman Mark Gray said "The president is not however considering changing the ten percent biofuels target."

Pressure for biofuels u-turn

Pressure is mounting on policymakers for a review of biofuels policy from international organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations World Food Programme in the light of growing reports of a food crisis and protected landscapes being cleared for biofuel crop production.

The PM's only chance of forcing change, should the government review confirm the targets as extremely damaging, is to go begging to the EU to change their policy.

Even if the Commission were to propose a change, the plan would still have to pass the hurdle of majority voting in the EU Council of Ministers, where a majority for change would by no means be assured.

Rather than elect a government, it seems we now simply elect lobbyists to run to those who really hold power ... in Brussels.

When exactly this became the limit of ambition for our country exhibited by much of today's governing class will have to be a question for another time.

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