Environmental campaigners have called on the government to cancel plans to introduce biofuels at the petrol pumps next month over fears they may actually cause more pollution than than fossil fuels. The RSPB has urged members of the public to email Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly to ask her to supsend the introduction of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) - due on April 15 - which will

mean at least 2.5% of every litre of fuel sold will be biofuel.

It stated: "Swathes of important habitat have been decimated and the survival of many species has been threatened due to the expansion of worldwide biofuels production - an expansion that has been driven by the thoughtless policies of governments around the world. In many cases, what is produced does not even deliver greenhouse gas savings - some are even more polluting than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace."

It added that safeguards needed to be in place to prove biofuels could be produced sustainably and help fight climate change.

The criticisms came as Kelly invited the UK’s newly formed Renewable Fuels Agency to lead the study on the "wider economic and environmental impacts - particularly the indirect impacts - of different forms of biofuel production". In a statement, the DfT said the results of the study would help form the development of UK and EU policies in the area, and "underpin the considerations of EU biofuel targets after 2010".

The current government biofuel targets following on from this April are 3.75% in 2009, and 5% by 2010/11. But there are no rules at present on how and where this biouel should be produced.

Kelly said: "There has been much recent debate around the risks associated with overly rapid expansion of biofuel production, with evidence now emerging on the indirect, or ’displacement’ impacts, of growing demand for agricultural production around the world. The UK government takes this issue very seriously. We are not prepared to go beyond current UK target levels for biofuels until we are satisfied it can be done sustainably."