Saturday, May 02, 2015

At Last EU Biofuels Cap Agreed and Should Now Allow Biogas from Waste to Thrive

"Waste Fed Biogas Plants" Should Now as Time Goes On, be Able to Throw Off the Critics Who Confuse them with Food Crop Based "Biofuel Biogas Plants"

The EU has at last agreed 7% cap on 'harmful' biofuels, and although many would say that this cap should have been set much lower, it is an important step away from one aspect of the use of anaerobic digestion, which has caused much damage, to the concept of gaining renewable energy from biogas plants, in the eyes of the public.

A example of an anti-biofuels campaign poster recently available on Twitter
About 15 years ago, when oil price rises had been inexorably rising for as long as anyone could remember, and the supply sources of oil looked increasingly insecure, governments began the renaissance of anaerobic digestion by subsidizing so called "biofuel" biogas plants.

The idea of biofuel is focused mainly on the production of diesel fuel, and the organic feedstock was almost entirely food crops.

It was seen as being "green", at first, but when in-depth and "whole-life" assessments were conducted on the balance of net energy produced by the crop use processes, and the fact that food prices have been rising as population demand raises consumption, the idea quickly began to look like nothing other than "greenwash".

The big hope that gave rise to the whole "biofuels" movement, was that the carbon emissions reduction benefits from it would be large, and would justify the use of food to make energy. But, sadly these gains have never materialised.

Worse still, in countries like the UK where biofuel subsidies were introduced late, and were lower than in Europe generally, waste material fed anaerobic digestion plants have often been mistakenly also tarred by the same brush, and perceived cynically as just another deceptive "green" lable.

Even today, objectors protest about proposed organic-waste-fed biogas plants, in the false belief that they will turn-out to be just the opposite! This is entirely due to studies conducted on biofuel production, and planning consents are being held-up, and even rejected, due to negative publicity related in fact to crop-fed biofuel plants, by hostile media and the public.

On this blog we have always been at pains to make the distinction between the very positive environmental (carbon emission reduction potential) of waste fed biogas production, as opposed to the poor record of crop-fed biogas production when used to make biofuels (mostly bio-diesel).

The main countries which did adopt biofuel production in a big way were, Germany and other central Eurpoean States, the US, and some South American countries. Most of these have been progressively reducing their subsidies for biofuels for some time. In fact, steep subsidy reductions in Germany have led close to stagnation, in the numbers of their biogas plants in recent years.

The 7% cap on 'harmful' biofuels will go hand-in-hand with further reduction in biofuel production subsidies, as governments seek to cut-back their national biofuel production, and to meet the new low target.

Hopefully, existing Agricultural Biogas Plants built for the creation of biogas for further processing into biofuel will, in the most part, be able to convert their operations to accept agricultural waste and continue in profitable operation as a result.

For those interested in reading more about the fall from grace of "biofuels", we suggest a visit to the following web pages for further reading:

EU agrees to burst biofuels bubble after 2020

After more than 10 years of debate, the European Parliament has today (28 April) agreed new laws to limit the use of crop-based biofuels across the continent.

The new rules effectively limit the use of biofuels in the transport sector at 7%, which count towards the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020.

The decision will prevent up to 320 million tonnes of CO2 - equal to Poland's total carbon emissions in 2012 - from entering the atmosphere. It has dually been welcomed by green groups and industry bodies alike.

Friends of the Earth Europe's biofuels campaigner Robbie Blake said: "Let no-one be in doubt, the biofuels bubble has burst.

EU agrees 7% cap on 'harmful' biofuels

Pietro Caloprisco, senior policy officer at Transport & Environment, said: "After years of industry and member state lobbying, this agreement is far weaker than the Commission's original proposal. Nevertheless, it sends a clear signal that land-based biofuels have no future role to play in Europe."

'Shun food crops'

European representatives of the Green party were rather more scathing, calling the deal a "major missed opportunity".

Green climate spokesperson Bas Eickhout said: "Feeding crops into cars has fuelled rising food prices and rainforest destruction and the EU should not be further exacerbating these trends by promoting the use of agricultural land for fuel.

"We should be shunning the use of food crops for fuel altogether but a 7% 'cap' is clearly too high and will allow for further increasing the large share of climate-damaging biofuels in our fuel mix."

What do you think? Please comment below...

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