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Biofuels can be used as a substitute for fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, to support the rural economy and promote energy security. However, depending on how they are made, some biofuels can lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels and they can have serious environmental and social impacts. A report published by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in 2011 indicated that current biofuels policy can be considered “unethical”.

Biofuels are supported by both European and UK legislation. Support for biofuels in the UK is mainly through the Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation (RTFO). This set a staggered target for the volume of “renewable fuels” in transport fuels to reach 5% by the period 2013/14. The EU Renewable Energy Directive requires 10% of transport fuel by 2020 to come from renewable sources—this is expected to be met predominantly with biofuels.

The Coalition Government has stated that the use of biofuels must be sustainable. Given concerns about the sustainability of biofuels it does not plan to increase biofuel targets in the short term, and it is reviewing biofuel policy. However, targets are likely to increase from 2014 to 2020 to meet European targets.

The European Commission is considering whether to introduce additional environmental safeguards. It was meant to report by July 2011, but this has been delayed. There is significant controversy surrounding the possible future direction of European biofuels policy.

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