Wednesday, March 01, 2006

French farmers jump on biofuel bandwagon

France has announced it is launching a tender for 1.1 million tonnes of biofuel capacity by the end of the year, comprising 950,000 tonnes biodiesel and 150,000 tonnes ethanol.

It already has a target that green fuels account for 5.75 percent of all fuels by 2008, bringing forward an EU target date of 2010.

France, the farmers' friend, loves biofuels because they protect the rural economies and excuse or supplant (sorry!) the massive CAP subsidies.

With the new tender France would produce 4.3 million tonnes - 7 percent - by end of 2010. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin intends to reach 10 percent by end of 2015.

"By 2008 we will plant 1.5-1.6 million hectares of rapeseed and 600,000 to 700,000 hectares of sunflowerseed. Of this one million hectares will be used for biodiesel," said Diester Industries President Philippe Tillous-Borde.

But, how will it be grown? Is it organic, or will there be tonnes of pesticide and fertiliser used?

The Low Carbon Kid, once passed through mile after mile of sunflower plantations in France, to stay on an organic smallholding surrounded by these plantations. It felt like a lush oasis in the middle of a desert.

The sunflower is a symbol for happiness and green, natural living, frequently found on merchandise and public relations bumpf. But when you're stuck in the middle of an intensively farmed monoculture those heads seem to sport fixed, deranged grins rather than happy smiles.

It's a tough choice. Business wants profits, but if we are serious about the environment, we must choose not only biofuels, but low-impact, ecologically sustainable agriculture, even if this is reflected in the price we pay.

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