Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bluster and Biofuels - The Biofuels Con?

We thought that you might be interested in this investor's view on Biofuels and the Audit Committe report. I am sure Gary won't object to our potentially feeding him signups to his report page by printing this!

The Environmental Audit Committee has got it right says Smart Commodities UK editor, Garry White. Biofuels are currently a net negative for the environment...

Bluster and Biofuels
By Garry White

So, could this be the end of the biofuels con..? Let’s hope so…
The all-party Environmental Audit Committee headed by Tim Yeo will today say that the target to more than double the amount of biofuels used in the UK should be scrapped.
Yeo said: “Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport but at present most biofuels have a detrimental impact on the environment overall”.

The committee wants a moratorium on the biofuel targets. They have considered the whole cycle rather than just a part of it. They said that biofuels produced less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels when burned, but these savings are negated by the use of fertilisers, deforestation and the energy needed to process them into fuel. I could not agree more.

There are, however, dissenters form this point of view – notably the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The NFU rejected the committee’s calls for a moratorium.

“Biofuels represent the only renewable alternative for replacing fossil fuels in transport and a way of tackling the one quarter of UK carbon emissions which transport is responsible for” said NFU President, Peter Kendall.

“UK Biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 53% and UK wheat bioethanol by 64% compared with their fossil fuel equivalents.

“Those savings can and should be improved. But for the committee to conclude that, because the savings are small, they are not worth having at all, is illogical and ill-informed.

“Of course, biofuel crops must be produced sustainably, both at home and abroad, and of course we should be developing more efficient biofuel technologies and encouraging motorists to take other measures to reduce transport emissions.

“And to criticise biofuels for using land that could otherwise be growing food when, in virtually the same breath, the Committee calls for land to be taken out of food production and given over to forestry and habitat creation shows just how muddled their thinking is.

“The best thing for the Government to do with this report is to consign it to the dustbin of history and focus instead on the infinitely more balanced and better informed report published by the Royal Society on 14 January 2008.”

The problem with this however, is that the Royal Society fudged the issue. I was at the press conference last week and one thing was made clear before it started; the report was not going to give any clear answers. The chairman said there would be no “yes” or “no” answers to anything, even though he accepted that was what the audience wanted.

This may be regarded as “good science” but when the world is looking for a solution to a major problem, sitting on the fence can do more harm than good. It’s time for people to nail their colours to the mast. I salute the Environmental Audit Committee for doing just this.


Garry White
for The Daily Reckoning

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Sam said...

this is not necessarly the only hope you forget hydrogen fuel cells.

now it is in phones and is farily stable the transferance into cars would be on the horizon.

It is also a very high power to consumption ratio i believe

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Steve Last said...

Hi! Sam - Hydrogen fuel cells are great but where does the energy come from to charge them? In that sense hydrogen is OK if from a renewable source, but won't provide us with diesel or gas (petrol).