A GOVERNMENT committee will today issue a long-awaited report on the possibilities of producing biomass energy from vegetable sources - but already, doubts are being raised by conservation groups.
...policies to boost bioenergy are only justifiable if significant and proven greenhouse emissions cuts are made and if their production does not cause unacceptable harm to wildlife
The Government is believed to be anxious to set a target of producing 10% of the nation's fuel needs - electricity or a diesel-type oil for vehicles - from vegetable products and it is a plan heavily backed by the country's farmers.
As food production dwindles, the agricultural industry believes there is a huge future in producing energy from crops like oil seed rape - which has already been converted into a fuel for diesel engines - or fast-growing timber to fire power stations.
As well as cutting oil and natural gas imports from some of the world's most unstable hotspots, bioenergy also has the huge benefit of sustainability: land used to produce such crops can be used over and over again.
But there is a downside, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Europe's biggest conservation group, in a statement issued to coincide with the select committee's findings.
Biomass fuels can actually produce more greenhouse gasses than fossil fuels in some circumstances, says the RSPB, whose statement asks if this so-called "green energy" is in fact a "red herring."
"The RSPB believes that policies to boost bioenergy are only justifiable if significant and proven greenhouse emissions cuts are made and if their production does not cause unacceptable harm to wildlife," it concludes.