Biofuels drive running out of gas
5:00AM Friday March 28, 2008
By Paula Oliver
The Government's push is under threat, with political support no longer
Growing concern about the merit of biofuels is threatening to derail a
Government push to get the new fuels flowing out of petrol pumps in
little more than three months.
The biofuel bill, now before a select committee, proposes to make oil
companies begin selling a small but progressively higher amount of
biofuels each year from July 1.
But while the bill passed its first reading comfortably, widespread
political support is no longer as assured because of worries that the
legislation does not deal strongly enough with questions about whether
biofuels will come from sustainable sources.
Global debate about biofuels has shifted in recent months and in Britain
- where the fuels are set to begin flowing on April 1 - a dispute is
raging about whether biofuels will do more harm than good by leading to
rainforest destruction and food shortages.
National MP Nick Smith yesterday said his party would not back the
biofuel bill unless the issue was sorted out and it was made clear that
the fuels coming into New Zealand would be from sustainable sources.
A delay to the bill's start date might be needed, he said.
"There just isn't the time before July 1 to draft credible criteria, and
then for oil companies to be able to access fuel to meet that criteria,"
Dr Smith told the Herald.
"National will not support the bill unless we are satisfied that the
biofuels are going to make a positive contribution to the environment."
Some of Parliament's smaller parties are also understood to be concerned
but are holding back on final decisions about the legislation until it
is reported back from a select committee in just over two weeks.
The Greens moved several months ago to get a reference to sustainability
put into the biofuel bill.
The clause that was added contains a regulation-making power allowing
the Cabinet to set environmental standards for the biofuels which are sold.
But with the launch date only three months away no clear standard is yet
Dr Smith said officials had advised the select committee examining the
bill that the earliest the provision could come into effect was next
year, and they did not expect to introduce regulations until 2011.
It was likely some of the biofuels coming into the country until then
would be from unsustainable sources, Dr Smith said.
Climate Change Minister David Parker has acknowledged some submitters to
the select committee want the bill to go further in its sustainability
Mr Parker has asked officials to look into including more criteria in
the bill itself, and to also consider whether there should be mandatory
reporting for biofuel providers of the source of their fuels.
The biofuel push is expected to increase the price of petrol for
drivers, and that too is concerning some political parties.
Oil giant BP submitted to the select committee that the price of fuel
would rise by between 7c and 15c a litre as a result of the added cost
New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown admitted yesterday his party
was "a little bit nervous" about whether the biofuel bill was going to
do what it was meant to at a reasonable cost.
"It's fair to say people have raised concerns with us," Mr Brown said.
"We've said we'll take those on board and make up our minds when the
bill comes back."
Mr Brown said the concerns raised with his party ranged from the
increased cost of petrol to whether the biofuels would influence the
price of food.
Biofuels (made from alternative products such as beef tallow) are set to
be introduced in small amounts from July 1 as part of the Government's
climate change push.
But there is growing global concern that the production of some biofuels
is pushing up food prices and bringing about rainforest destruction.
The legislation contains a clause about sustainability, but there is
doubt that an environmental standard will be ready in time for the July
1 launch date.
Political support for the biofuel legislation is potentially shaky
unless the sustainability issue is sorted out quickly.
Biofuels bill blasted by Environment Commissioner
Thursday, 3 April 2008, 1:00 pm
Press Release: New Zealand National Party
Hon Dr Nick Smith MP
National Party Environment Spokesman
3 April 2008
Biofuels bill blasted by Environment Commissioner
The Government must heed the message of the Parliamentary Commissioner
for the Environment that its biofuels bill is flawed and a risk to New
Zealand's clean, green brand, says National's Environment spokesman, Dr
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, today
blasted the Government's biofuels bill at the Environment Select
Committee and recommended the bill not proceed. The Commissioner
highlighted the UK House of Commons audit report recommending a
moratorium on policies to increase the use of biofuels, research showing
that many biofuels did not reduce carbon emissions, the limited domestic
capacity for biofuels, and the environmental and food security problems
of imported biofuel.
"This damning submission confirms that the Government's biofuel policy
is ill conceived and likely to do more harm than good.
"It is a nonsense for Labour to be insistent on the biofuels obligations
coming into effect on 1 July when the environmental standards for such
fuels are years away.
"The mad rush seems more about politics and Labour wanting to look like
it's doing something in election year rather than protecting the
"Yesterday's statement by the Minister that unsustainable biofuels are
likely to be imported to meet the Government's biofuels obligation is a
"New Zealanders do not want to pay another five to seven cents a litre
for petrol and diesel for a flawed policy that will do more
environmental harm than good.
"National will not support biofuels until there are clear standards to
ensure their environmental integrity."