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Biofuel campaign: Get your ROC’s off!

Biofuel. Sounds good doesn't it? Fuel that can be grown. Isn't that a great thing? No it isn't. Biofuel is made from palm fruit, jatropha and corn which are processed into oil, then burned, to produce heat, generate electricity or used as a transport fuel for trucks and buses.

At first glance that might seem a great idea to move away from polluting fossil fuels to fuels that can be grown and keep being grown. Unfortunately when you look a little closer it isn't as good as it seems.  The demand for biofuels is so massive that in order to satisfy the demand great swathes of land are subject to deforestation and land that has been previously used for food production is now given over to biofuel crops. The  result of this is food shortages and an increase in the displacement of people,  leading to poverty and hunger in countries such as Indonesia, India and parts of Africa and South America. People have even had their land seized by big companies to grow biofuels on.

Tim Rice from Action Aid said “biofuels are driving a global human tragedy. Local food prices have already risen massively.As biofuel lproduction gains pace, this can only accecelarate. Poor people can spend as much as 80 per cent  of their income on food. Even small increases in the price of staples such as maize and wheat mean that many more will become increasingly desperate”

At the time of this campaign biofuels being used in the UK accounted for 3% of the road fuel mix. It was proposed by the EU to increase this, firstly to 5%, then to 10%. There were also plans to use biofuels in power stations to produce electricity as they were heavily subsidised as a green and sustainable form of energy. These subsidies took the form of  Renewable Obligation Certificates or ROC’s with biofuels qualifying for the same subsidies as offshore wind farms.

Lots of environmental groups were campaigning against biofuels and the ROC subsidies, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam and ActionAid  being amongst them. Lush chose to join forces with biofuelwatch, which is a grassroots volunteer led network, that had been instrumental in fighting against every biofuel power plant that had been proposed in the UK. Lush helped to fund them with a Charity Pot grant prior to this campaign.

Lush customers were asked to sign a postcard in petition to ask Chris Hulme,  the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate change, to stop supporting biofuel power stations, reduce or stop ROC’s  and abolish the targets for biofuels in transport fuels.

In lush store windows there was a ‘wheel of misfortune’ with sections documenting the problems of biofuels, such as Rainforest Destroyed; Less Space to Grow Food; Massive Carbon Emissions; Orangutans Endangered and Land Taken From People, which customers were, after filling in a postcard, invited to spin for a chance to win a piece of limited edition ‘get your ROCs off’ soap.

Two Lush stores went even further to raise awareness of the problem and what could be done.  The managers from Derby and Portsmouth stores were dressed as Orangutans, strapped to a huge version of the Wheel of Misfortune and spun around whilst knives were thrown at them, live in store!

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