Market gardeners

Currently, global biodiesel capacity is 900,000 tonnes, with Europe accounting for 850,000 tonnes and the US for 50,000 tonnes. Leading the pack are Germany, France and Italy. The most commonly used blend in Europe is B20, which has 20 per cent biodiesel. The popularity of biofuels in Europe has come from the urgency to reduce oil bills and allow the farming sector to reap benefits from them. Using biofuels is also helping European nations meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments.

The transport and energy directorate-general of the European Commission (EC) has drafted a proposal on the promotion of the use of biofuels in the transport sector within the European Union. The proposal entails that by 2010, calculated on the basis of energy content, the minimum share of biofuels should be 5.75 per cent of the total transport fuels sold in each member state. The biofuels can be used in pure or blended form.

But some environmentalists are not convinced of the viability of the move due to the trade-off involved. Europe's network of environmental non-governmental organisations (ngos) and the European Environmental Bureau (eeb) wants the EC to scrap the proposals as they fear that in lure of profits, farmers would utilise their land for growing intensive non-food crops. This will result in more use of pesticides and loss of biodiversity. Therefore, they say that since biodiesel made from rapeseed oil holds no distinct advantages for the environment, emission of carbon dioxide can be reduced more efficiently by other means.