Energy Crisis Solution Is `Staring Us in the Face'

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Byline: By Jennifer Mackenzie

Farming industry leaders are urging the Government to act over increases in fuel prices.

Crude oil prices have risen to the same levels that sparked the September 2000 fuel protests, adding to the agricultural and horticultural industries' concerns over the proposed increase in red diesel duty.

The increase in the price of crude is already being reflected in pump prices but the impact will be particularly strongly felt in late summer and early autumn as farmers enter the period of heaviest fuel use for harvesting and drying crops.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says the situation underlines the importance of seeking alternative forms of energy, and calls for the Government to lead the way.

And the NFU is urging Treasury Minister John Healy to delay the 2.42p per litre increase in excise duty on gas oil.

"It's not simply the cost of fuel," said CLA regional director Douglas Chalmers, "it's our dependence on imported fuel at a time of global uncertainty.

"The volatility of oil prices should spur the Government to properly address renewable sources of energy. And the answer is out there in the countryside, staring us in the face."

Mr Chalmers said farmers can grow fuel to power UK vehicles but are discouraged because the high level of taxation is stifling demand. He is calling for the Government to further reduce duty on biofuels to make it attractive to consumers and to educate the public about the benefits of bio-energy.

"At a time when the Government is looking to the agricultural industry to stand on its own two feet, farmers say they could produce for a market by growing oilseed rape for biodiesel production, and wheat, sugar beet and potatoes for production of bioethanol.

"The existing market for biodiesel is currently sourcing fuel from Germany, more imports. …