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Biofuel debate splits countryside

[Thursday 24 January 2008]

GOVERNMENT plans announced in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday, January 22) to increase the number of crops planted in Britain to provide biofuels for cars and trucks have opened a big divide between various rural interest groups.

We need to assess how much of our farmland can be used for bioenergy crops

Ian Woodhurst - CPRE

Farmers and landowners are generally for the proposals for biofuels crops - like sugar beet, oil seed rape and even wheat - whereas conservation bodies like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds would prefer "biomass" crops like fast-growing timber to be burned in small power stations.

Some MPs are concerned that the large-scale planting of such crops will send to price of food soaring at a time on already fast-increasing prices whereas countryside lovers fear large-scale changes to our landscapes.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) issues a worried statement yesterday saying that the plans could "put the car before the harvest."

Ian Woodhurst, CPRE's senior rural campaigner complained: 'We need to assess how much of our farmland can be used for bioenergy crops and then plan how to grow and process these crops in ways that do not damage the character of our countryside so that our landscapes and wildlife sites don't suffer.

"The Government needs to avoid sacrificing the quality of our countryside and its wildlife just to meet targets to provide biofuel for cars."

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