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Prince Charles faced ridicule yesterday for taking the Royal train on a week-long nationwide tour to promote cycling.

The prince has ordered the nine carriage train for a five-day, 1300-mile “green tour” of Britain, starting from Glasgow tomorrow.

His trip is aimed at promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles and ethical modes of transport and he has boasted that the train will run on biofuels.

But yesterday experts accused Charles of hypocrisy after it emerged the train would carry just him and a handful of staff. They also questioned whether the train was better for the environment than travelling by car.

Climate change expert Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said: “This is a clear case of double standards. Prince Charles and other super-rich people are not aware of the discrepancy between what they preach and what they do.

“His lifestyle creates a carbon footprint which is 100 times that of any other person in the UK.

“If he is really concerned about the environment, he should stop using cars, planes, or in this case trains, and practise what he preaches.

“It is ironic that he is travelling on a train to promote cycling as a green mode of transport.

“Even if the train is using biofuels, the journey is still questionable. Biofuels are morally dubious as they are grains that are grown specifically to be used for energy and not food.

“We have millions of people starving around the world and biofuels are pushing up the price of food.”

The Royal train costs taxpayers an average of £52,631 every time it pulls out.

Charles is going to be criss-crossing the country on his five-day jaunt. He will start in Glasgow, before travelling to cities and towns including Edinburgh, Bristol, Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham.

The Green Party said: “We admire Prince Charles’s passion for the sustainability agenda.

“His support for progressive projects such as cutting fuel bills by installing solar panels is laudable.

“But when people are facing cuts in public services, the idea of a private train costing £90,000 more than ordinary first class tickets might seem a bit insensitive.”

Green Fuels of Gloucestershire, who supply the biodiesel for the train, claim its carbon footprint was “significantly” smaller than if it ran on fossil fuels.

In the past year, the train was used on 19 occasions, covering an average of 751 miles, at a cost of s1million.

Clarence House said: “The prince has not done a tour like this across Britain before. It is not practical to use scheduled trains in such a busy programme which has 10 locations in five days. On this occasion the Royal train was the best solution.”

Sunday Mail, 5 September 2010


Rising wheat prices raise fears over UK Biofuels

The Observer, 5 September 2010

Converting up to a fifth of UK wheat into biofuel will force prices even higher at a time of food shortages, warn critics

The soaring price of wheat has raised questions about the UK’s commitment to biofuels as it attempts to wean itself from its dependence on oil.

A network of biorefineries that convert wheat and other crops into bioethanol that can then be blended with petrol are being developed as the UK looks to meet its EU renewable transport fuels obligations.

But the huge amounts of wheat that will be used in the process – up to a fifth of the UK’s current annual production within four years – have prompted questions about where the crop will come from.

At the end of a week in which the wheat price hit a two-year high as Russia, the world’s fourth largest producer, imposed an export ban for the second year running, there were fears that the domestic move to biofuels would lead to further rises in the cost of wheat. The result would be a significant rise in shopping bills.

Currently there is only one wheat biorefinery operating in the UK. Owned by a company called Ensus, the Tees-side plant, which cost almost £300m to build and was temporarily closed due to teething problems, will use some 1.2 tonnes of wheat a year when at full capacity.

But four more plants that could use wheat, at Immingham, Corby, Grimsby and Hull, are also in development. According to the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, the three UK biofuel refineries that are expected to be fully operating by 2014 will require 3m tonnes, one-fifth of the wheat produced in the UK.

The demand is expected to rise further as the UK tries to meet recently agreed EU biofuel targets. The UK has recently signed up to a compulsory EU target that will see 10% of its transport fuels come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

The “dash for wheat” could see large amounts of land converted to arable use both in the UK and abroad. Green groups are concerned about what this will mean for developing countries.

The World Bank, the OECD and the UK government’s Gallagher report all identified biofuels as a significant factor in recent food price rises. But some reports suggest biofuels could actually help to “smooth out” the peaks and troughs associated with the wheat market by providing producers with more stable demand.

Concerns about the UK’s wheat supply come at the end of a week in which the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that world food prices have risen to their highest level in two years. It said that the increase was due partly to a drought in Russia, where government export restrictions have led the price to surge. Speculators have also been blamed for helping to drive prices higher at a time of general uncertainty.

A spike in food prices triggered deadly riots in Mozambique last week and experts worry that other countries that saw such unrest during the last global food crisis in 2008 could be hit again. In Egypt, where half of the population depends on subsidised bread, recent protests over rising prices left at least one person dead. There are also reports of price increases in flood-hit Pakistan.

Kenneth Richter, head of biofuels at Friends of the Earth, said last week’s riots showed that food should not be used for fuel. “In a time of rising food prices and global shortages, it is cynical to burn wheat in our cars,” he said.

Copyright 2010, The Observer