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Two Norfolk MPs have thrown their weight behind a firm's dream of turning East Anglia into the oil field of the future.

Global Commodities, of Shipdham, near Dereham, currently produces 10m litres of biodegradable diesel fuel every year from waste vegetable oil. In early March, the company plans to launch a second operation in Lowestoft which will employ 130 people and boost annual production to 180m litres. It has also signed a deal with Broadland Fuels to provide the driveECO fuel at 40 filling-station pumps throughout East Anglia.

Managing director Dennis Thouless is keen to take the operation to a new level which could offer farmers throughout the region a badly-needed profitable crop. He wants to produce biodegradable fuel from oil seed rape oil, helping to organise farmers into co-operatives based around the necessary crushing facilities.

But his dream, which could turn East Anglia into a major centre for green-fuel production, stands no chance of fruition unless the Government slashes or abolishes excise duty on biofuel.

A litre of driveECO is about a penny-per-litre cheaper than its fossil-fuel counterpart, but if it were made from oil seed rape, it would be substantially more expensive unless the all-important excise duty were cut back radically.

Yesterday, South West Norfolk MP Gillian Shepherd and Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson pledged to put pressure on the Government to make the necessary reduction. They instructed Jamie Merrick, sustainable development manager for the East of England Development Agency, also visiting the company, to prepare a feasibility study into planning, economic and environmental hurdles faced by Global Commodities. It would also look at opportunities for grants and investment and how farmers could be included in the oil-seed rape operation.

"I think this company is absolutely amazing," said Mrs Shepherd. "But what I find depressing are the reefs and hurdles that have been erected for Mr Thouless to get over."

Mr Simpson said: "This is the beginning of what I think is going to be not only important for the economic future of farming and East Anglia but equally important for resolving major environmental problem."

From the Eastern Daily Press – January 2003

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