From: Reuters
Published March 19, 2008 02:31 PM

Dutch minister sees no need for biofuels moratorium

By Catherine Hornby

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A national moratorium on the use of biofuels would not stop other countries producing unsustainably and a better strategy would be to develop industry standards, the Dutch environment minister said on Wednesday.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food called for a five-year moratorium on biofuels last year, saying it was a "crime against humanity" to convert food crops to fuel.

Britain's transport ministry has said it will review the environmental and economic impact of biofuels production after a parliamentary committee also called for a moratorium on increasing their use.

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"We could opt for a moratorium, but my fear is that the rest of the world will go on with this development without taking into account the sustainability aspect," Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer told Reuters in an interview.

"We (had) better show how it should be done rather than just criticizing and not intervening," she said, adding that she hoped to set in motion a strategy in which biomass and biofuels were produced only in sustainable ways.

Some environmentalists and politicians say rising production of biofuels has helped drive up food prices, distorted government budgets and led to deforestation in southeast Asia and Brazil.

Supporters, however, argue that biofuels represent the only renewable alternative for replacing fossil fuels and do generally result in greenhouse gas savings.

"The main challenge is to develop second generation options and look for products which can be produced in non agricultural areas," Cramer said, mentioning jatropha, a woody plant that can grow on barren, marginal land.

She said she wanted to see the development of certification schemes in coming years for all types of biomass ranging from vegetable oils to sugar cane to wood.

Official data recently showed that Dutch power plants almost halved the use of biofuels last year compared to 2006 after government subsidies were cut in mid-2006, in part due to concerns about the environmental effects of some biofuels.

EU leaders pledged last year to boost the share of biofuels produced from crops for use in transport to 10 percent by 2020, but the bloc has said it may reconsider its strategy.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby; editing by Chris Johnson)

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