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Ferris warns of dependence on imported biofuels

14 February, 2007

Sinn Féin Energy & Natural Resources spokesperson Martin Ferris TD warned tonight that the unless measures are taken to encourage the growing of energy crops, we are in danger of becoming as dependent on imported biofuels, as we already are on imported fossil fuels for our energy needs. Deputy Ferris was speaking in the Dáil in support of a Fine Gael bill on biofuels.

The Kerry North TD said: "I welcome the Fine Gael Bill tonight as an intelligent proposal to promote the use of biofuels. The current Government has set ambitious targets for the use of biofuels but there is little evidence that the work that needs to be done in order to achieve those targets is being carried out.

"I have seen one estimate that it would require 400,000 hectares of rape seed to produce sufficient fuel to meet less than 2% of vehicle fuel demand. That is more than the current area under crops in this state and just under 10% of the overall agricultural area.

"Given the large area of land that is currently unused or under-used much more attention should be given to encouraging farmers to grow energy crops such as willow.

"While the potential is obviously there to greatly expand the area of energy crop production, there is also the issue of processing. I visited one such production facility in Wexford last year and was greatly impressed but its operators were keen to impress on me the fact that such plants could only meet a small proportion of the demand that will exist if targets are to be achieved.

"That is why it was so disappointing that more was not done to encourage the transformation of the former sugar factories at Mallow and Carlow over to the production of fuels from sugar beet.

"Had it been done then not only would the beet growers have been provided with an alternative outlet for their crop, indeed an expanded one, but also new jobs would have been created to replace those that were lost with the EU enforced closure of the Irish sugar industry.

"If we do not urgently take the necessary measures to encourage greatly increased energy crop production and the establishment of processing facilities here then we will merely be substituting our dependence on imported fossil fuels for imported bio fuels. While that would be better for the environment it would not benefit the economy. It would be a shame indeed if the massive potential that exists here were to be missed as it could provide a much need alternative and income source for Irish farmers as well as many jobs in the processing sector."


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