Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Activists call off biofuel protest

Tuesday, September 15, 2009, The Bath Chronicle

A controversial Bath campaign group has called off plans for a protest at the city headquarters of an energy firm.

The Bath Activist Network says it has been convinced by information provided by pioneering company Blue-NG that its policies on launching new biofuel power stations are ethical.

BAN - which has recently staged protests over issues from foie gras to the treatment of racehorses - had originally accused the Railway Place firm of putting up a "green smokescreen" over its plans for power plants in London.

It had scheduled a protest at the firm's offices this Saturday, and had even talked of staging a debate with someone from the firm, which is a partnership between energy firm 20C and National Grid and headed by entrepreneur Andrew Mercer.

But a spokesman said the event had now been called off.

http://iad.anm.co.uk/house/1x1.GIF"The evidence which they have provided us with points towards a firm which is making every effort to be an ethical company. Blue-NG are very definitely trying."

He said BAN was still keen to stage a public debate on the pros and cons of the use of crops for fuel.

Such schemes can be controversial if they rely on crops from abroad, particularly palm oil from tropical rainforest zones.

But Blue-NG - which has the go-ahead for one plant in London and is waiting to see if it gets planning permission on an appeal to London Mayor Boris Johnson for a second - has pledged not to use palm oil, and to rely on rapeseed oil from this country.

A spokesman for the firm said: "Blue-NG is grateful to BAN for listening to our arguments. We look forward to having a proper debate with them in the near future.

"BAN are right to bring to people's attention that there are issues surrounding the use of crops for fuel, particularly if they just prolong our unsustainable love affair with the car. But we believe that our use of UK-sourced rapeseed, recycled vegetable oil, and biogas from landfill or household waste, to generate electricity and heat, is a real step towards breaking free from our dependence on fossil fuels."

The firm says the UK has had a surplus of rapeseed for years, often as much as 300,000 tonnes per year, with prices 40 per cent lower than they were two years ago.

The spokesman added: "Choosing to buy UK rapeseed oil is a huge commercial hit for us, because palm oil is much cheaper, but we're prepared to take that hit because it's the right thing to do."