[Mr. David Amess in the Chair] — Biofuels

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:30 pm on 5th June 2008.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud 3:30 pm, 5th June 2008

I will not detain Westminster Hall long, Mr. Amess. I pay tribute to the Select Committee for its report, which makes some very interesting recommendations. Obviously, it is in some dispute with the Government over how it wants to go forward.

May I also plug my own Select Committee, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which, if nothing else, got in first? We considered climate change and the role of bioenergy a couple of years before the Environmental Audit Committee. I do not want to get into Select Committee wars, but we are considering a moveable feast—something that has a different context now. The two Committees, however, came to somewhat different conclusions. I wish to dwell on a few of the issues at the heart of those differences.

Clearly, we can agree on some things. We were quite agnostic about the current generation of biofuels because we did not see them as a long-term solution. That was why there was a big call to go to the second generation as quickly as possible, particularly, and crucially, for air transport. We considered the notion of synthetic kerosene in some detail, but I will not bore the House with trying to explain what that can do. It certainly has opportunities.

As part of our inquiry, we visited Brazil. In a sense, Brazil is central to our dilemma. We can all put up our hands and say, "It is terrible what is happening to the Amazon." We all sign our petitions. We probably all send out these NGO cards to ourselves about what we must do to forestall this terrible degradation of our world. Yet, at the same time, one of the reasons why the Brazilian economy has been so successful is because it began to use molasses, a by-product of its sugar industry, to form bioethanol, which went into producing hybrid cars, and we were in complete awe. Basically, the Brazilian Government went to the car manufacturers and said, "You will, over a period of time, increase the blend, otherwise you will not produce these cars in this country." That was the slap of firm government. Obviously, there are dangers in that, but they proved that they could take on an industry and change the nature of the world in so doing.

We now have biodiesel blends. The first garage that introduced the blend is in my constituency—I won't embarrass them by saying where it was. Now biodiesel is offered as a matter of course. My key point, and I do not want to labour it for long, is that we considered issues around the biomass taskforce under Sir Ben Gill. I will be very careful what I say because the Opposition spokesperson is here, but agriculture was on its knees—it is always on its knees—and this seemed a clever ruse to rebuild the arable sector. Three years on, we have extremely rich barley barons—as I said, I will be very careful. Three years is not a long time in policy evolution. Yet we have seen a huge change. We are now talking about food shortages, the price of food and people whose income was on the floor three years ago being the richest people in the country.