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Germany backs EU biofuels targets

by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) April 23, 2008
Germany does not want to change the EU's goal of boosting the use of biofuels in cars, a senior official said Wednesday, despite criticism that this may further fuel the global rise in food prices.

The European Union has set a target for biofuels to make up 10 percent of all vehicle fuel by 2020.

"It always helps to have objectives," said State Transport Secretary Matthias von Randow.

The goal "helps us make progress, without a figure to aim for we couldn't move forwards," he told reporters.

However the minister stressed that Germany was aware that biofuels are only "a limited response to a complex problem," posed by global warming.

"The current biofuels, the first generation, can only play a limited role in this strategy," he said.

Germany's environment minister recently downscaled the country's ambitious plan to develop first generation biofuels, made from wheat, soya and other crops.

Von Randow said the European objectives -- part of a wider package to slice 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 -- would help speed up research and development of second generation biofuels, which "within five or 10 years" will use agricultural waste without taking up valuable crop space.

Other German governmental sources took the same line, stressing the necessity to consider the social and environmental "durability" criteria so that the question of food supply is addressed.

"We think there must be good arguments on the use of biofuels in the EU," one governmental source said.

"Only around two percent of agricultural land worldwide is used for biofuels, which shows that the rise in food prices is not caused by biofuels," the source added.

The European Environment Agency, advisors to the European Commission, earlier this month recommended that the EU suspend its 10 percent biofuels target.

It argued that the target would require large amounts of additional imports of biofuels leading to the accelerated destruction of rain forests. The agency also questioned the environmental benefits of biofuels.

The World Bank said earlier this month that increased biofuel production had contributed to the rise in food prices.

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New biofuels source is discovered
Austin, Texas, April 23, 2008
U.S. scientists said they have created a microbe that produces cellulous, which, in turn, can be transformed into ethanol and other biofuels.

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