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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 09:43 GMT
West: Green cars
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
Politics Show West

Biodiesel reduces carbon dioxide emissions

Most of the ideas for tackling global warming will leave us worse off. But there are exceptions.

An announcement by ministers of incentives for using fuel made from crops could prove a boon for the West's farmers.

It may seem an unlikely place for a technological revolution, but Somerset is to be the launch-pad for a new generation of green cars.

They are called flexi-fuel vehicles, because as well as petrol they can run on bioethanol.

Not only does growing this counter-act global warming, but the engines also pump out two thirds less greenhouse gases.

It so impressed Somerset county council that it is helping get a fleet of them onto local roads.

"By April 2006 the plan is to have 50 cars running in fleets in the county, and a network of five fuel pumps," says Renewable Energy Officer Ian Bright.

"And from the interest already received we can see that will grow rapidly."

That will be helped by government plans announced this month.

It is a carrot and stick approach, with reduced duty for drivers using renewable fuels, and a challenging target for oil companies to increase the amount they sell.

  • 5% of all fuel sold to come from renewable sources by 2010
  • 20p less duty charged per litre until 2008
  • 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions should be saved

When the green cars arrive, the fuel will initially have to be imported from Spain; however it will be made from Somerset wheat.

Archie Montgomery
Archie Montgomery: We could have domestic fuel security

Among those farmers already growing crops for bioethanol is Archie Montgomery. He believes it is vital Britain does more:

"The benefits would be that we would not be relying on imported fuel, so we would have a domestic fuel security, and enormous benefits to the farming community."

And Britain's first large bioethanol plant is due to be built in South Somerset at a cost of 50m.

"We hope to be making 100,000 tons a year of bioethanol in Somerset within the next couple of years," says Graham Hilton of Earth Spirit Fuels.

"They will be produced from locally grown crops, and distributed through local partners and local forecourts."

But critics say it has all come rather late, and others have moved much faster.

In Sweden, for example, most cars sold are able to run on bio fuels.

Neil Parish MEP
Neil Parish MEP: Researched the technology pan-Europe

The South West MEP Neil Parish has researched the situation across Europe.

"The Germans are using 2m tonnes of oil seed rape and converting it into bio diesel; we have virtually none in this country," he says.

"You have got to have a reduction in duty, and 20p is not quite enough; also having it over a three year period is not long enough to get investment into the country."

The West has the crops, the farmers, and will soon have the cars: all that is needed is for the politicians to drive this new technology forward.

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