Farmers seek biofuel funding

Farmers said yesterday they will need more European Union subsidies if they are to begin the cultivation of plants that generate biofuels and decrease Greece’s dependence on polluting fossil fuels. «For the cultivation of bio fuel-producing plants in Greece to be viable, subsidies must be much higher than the 4.5 euros per 10th of a hectare currently being given by the EU,» said Nikos Vassilakos, one of the authors of a report by the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives (PASEGES) which was made public yesterday. Following the implementation of the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), 600,000 hectares of cultivation of sugar beet, tobacco, cotton, wheat and corn are expected to be abandoned by Greek farmers seeking greater profits. More than half of these cultivations – some 370,000 hectares – must be sown with plants that produce biofuels if the country is to meet new EU targets. These targets dictate that, by 2010, 5.75 percent of fuels used for transport be biofuels and that biofuels should contribute 1.2 percent of the country’s power supply. But, according to the PASEGES study, farmers need a major hike in subsidies if they are to maintain their current net income in the cultivation of bio plants. The farmers estimate that they will need 197 million euros a year in subsidies for the new cultivations. The report also stresses that Greece must choose the focus of its investments in the energy sector, noting that the use of biofuels is relatively cheap in power production. Clean energies could surge to supply half of world demand by 2050 if governments crack down on fossil fuel, Greenpeace said yesterday.

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