NEWS

Dimas issues biofuel warning

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas yesterday warned that biofuels may be doing more harm to the environment than good as their impact on curbing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is being offset by rainforest destruction and rising food prices. «We have seen that the environmental and social problems being caused by biofuels are bigger than we thought they were so we have to move very carefully,» Dimas told the BBC in an interview. The EU’s policy to get 10 percent of its road fuel from plants by 2010 seemed like a dream solution for curbing CO2 gases when it was heralded a few years ago. But now, Dimas says, it might be better to miss this target than hit it at the expense of the environment, and the poor. Increasing demand for crops being used in biofuel production has pushed up food prices. And poor citizens are being driven off their land by manufacturers keen to cultivate biofuels. «We have to have criteria for sustainability including social and environmental issues,» Dimas said, adding that the EU would introduce a certification scheme. Greece lags behind Germany, France and Sweden in biofuel production but is developing this sector with some 12,000 hectares of land cultivated last year, chiefly rapeseed. Dimas also expressed concern about a matter closer to home yesterday: the toxic pollution of the Asopos River, in central Greece, which supplies tens of thousands of citizens with drinking water. «The Commission is extremely concerned abut the pollution of the Asopos with hexavalent chromium,» Dimas said, referring to a potentially carcinogenic chemical found in the water. Last October the EC asked the government for proof that it is adhering to EU quality standards for drinking water but has not received a response.