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Biodiesel debate refuelled as National Express ends trial

Date: 08 August 2007

The greenness of biofuels is again up for debate after coach firm National Express announced it has ended a biodiesel trial in its buses.

The coach firm blamed worries about the true environmental benefit of biodiesel, following consultation with a number of green groups including Friends of the Earth and the WWF.

"The issue with biofuels is complex and what appears to be the green option may not actually be green after all," said National Express Group chief executive Richard Bowker. "We are not dismissing the role they may play in the future, but based on the evidence today I think it is vital that we wait for issues relating to the sustainability of supply are resolved before we press ahead with trials of biodiesel."

Last year, the firm's Spanish fleet of coaches trialled a 10% biodiesel blend, and it was looking to follow that with a UK trial of 20-30%.

National Express aired concerns both over the use of land to grow crops for biodeisel, and the actual environmental benefits of the fuel.

It did add it will monitor the development of what's know as second generation biofuels, which use non-food crops such as straw or wood chip instead of the rape seed and similar currently used.

The RAC Foundation's Edmund King described the move as symptomatic of the general confusion surrounding future green fuels. "It's unfortunate this step has been taken," he told BusinessCar. "It's normal that a coach company or a specific fleet can be a trailblazer with new technologies and fuels."

King said the Government's lack of a clear indication on its favoured route to a greener future is also hindering progress. "The Government says we don't want to pick the way forward, but a little guidance wouldn't hurt," he said. "There are benefits to biofuels, but the important thing is where they come from and whether they are sustainable."