Thursday, 29 January 2009
Biofuels ruled out in Wales
This week the Assembly received a statement on the Welsh Government's Bio-energy Action Plan.
There are potentially several difficulties with bio-energy. When energy crops are grown, processed and transported, greenhouse gases can be released, and that is a particular concern if crops have to be imported. I note from your statement that you recognise the need to proceed with caution in terms of growing energy crops, and real care needs to be taken before decisions are made to change land use from food crops production to energy production. We have received warnings from elsewhere in the world that incentives in certain countries to change land use in favour of energy crops has caused the price of many basic foodstuffs to rise quite considerably, and that has a knock-on effect in terms of population and poverty. There are also concerns about the potential effect on wildlife populations, particularly if land used for energy crops is not managed in the appropriate way. Therefore, I ask that the consultation on this takes account of the delicate balance that we need to strike when working with nature. If properly regulated and planned, a Welsh bio-energy sector could help to meet our climate change targets, but we need to tread carefully to ensure that what is a positive in one area does not result in greater negatives elsewhere.
I can tell you categorically that the Welsh Assembly Government has no intention of supporting the production of biofuels from energy crops grown in Wales due to concerns about the potential for biofuel crops to displace food crops, and due to the energy requirements for the production of biofuels. We will be looking at all opportunities for growing different kinds of energy crops. Some of those are in the grass sector and some are woody, as you know. Work is going on with the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at present looking at the most effective outcomes. We are hugely mindful of this issue in terms of the relationship between energy crops for transport and food crops.