Review finds that biofuels could CAUSE greenhouse gases

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Biofuels will harm biodiversity and may even cause greenhouse gas emissions, an independent review has concluded, though the review ruled out a moratorium on the use of biofuels in petrol. Why not?

Gallagher review, by the Renewable Fuels Agency's (RFA), into the indirect effects of biofuels, said that the increasing demand is also contributing to rising food prices, which in the short term could have a severe impact on the poor.

As it would appear, this review and study found that biofuels, aside from the environmental impact they will have, and the impact as to food shortages and hunger, could have an impact as regards to greenhouse gases that could be as bad – if not even worse – than gasoline and diesel.

The RFA, however, ruled out a moratorium on biofuels. Instead it called on government to reduce the rate of increase of the UK's biofuels target to just half a percent a year, bringing the target to five percent in 2013 to 2014.

The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), which came into force in April 2008, does require, however, that 2.5% of fuel on forecourts in 2008/2009 have to be biofuels, increasing by 1.25% a year to 5% in 2010/2011.

The review also said that the European Union's target of 10 percent biofuels by 2020 is not justified by scientific evidence but could be possible if conditions are put in place to ensure sustainability.

Presently anyone who does not wear blinkers should realize that this is not sustainable and it is rather questionable as to whether any conditions can be put into place to ensure sustainability. Food crops are being turned into fuel, such as maize (corn) for ethanol, or palm oil for bio-diesel, the latter, while not being a food crop does cause, for lack of a better word, the clearing of forests and also the planting of those palms in favor of food crops. Neither of it is sustainable. So, I do not think that we need a sustainability study on this. It is glaringly obvious.

Why on earth do we want to created fuel for ICE vehicles from food crops or such. We must get away for the overuse of the ICE vehicles and go over to something more sensible.

On the other hand, and it has been tried, diesel engines, especially those so-called multi-fuel diesels can automatically use waste cooking oil without any problems whatsoever. So, why are we playing around with growing foods for bio-diesel when waste cooking oils can be used for this. Maybe, instead of “safely” disposing of cooking oil as, so I understand, is the present practice, we should use all of those oils to turn into fuel and it would not even need much work bar, theoretically, filtering out the bits of food debris in the oil.

I would love to know the amount, daily, of cooking oils that are “disposed” off in this country's McD's and other such outlets and that could be made use of to fuel vehicles.

Professor Gallagher said: "Our review makes clear that the risks of negative impacts from biofuels are real and significant, but it also lays out a path for a truly sustainable biofuels industry in the future."

Does it? It would be nice if Professor Gallagher would point out where the sustainability lies with bio-fuels. Somewhere along the line I seem to be missing it.

Responding to the review, government announced it will consult on slowing down the rate of increase in the RTFO and will press for the EU's 10% target to be kept under regular review.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "We need to proceed more cautiously than previously thought, but we should not give up on the potential for some biofuels to help us tackle climate change now and in the future."

Greenpeace chief scientist Dr. Doug Parr said: "This review sends a stark message - using food crops to fuel our cars risks making climate change worse and increasing food prices for the world's poorest people."

He called on Gordon Brown to promote other green motoring alternatives, such as making our cars more fuel efficient and boosting the number of vehicles powered by clean, renewable electricity.

Like Greenpeace we at the Green (Living) Review also would urge the British government and the European Union as a whole to seriously look at alternatives to the ICE in cars and trucks and to promote alternative transport ways and means.

For local transportation, as the Danes and the Dutch keeping showing us, the bicycle is a great alternative to the motorcar, especially also with regards to the fact that one does not have to find parking spaces and even if one can find them one has to pay for parking in most places.

In the countryside the horse and buggy might even be something to be considered (again), as well as the use of horses in agriculture and in forestry.

Yes, we may need some more people to actually do some physically work again in those and other industries but I doubt that it will kill any of us. In fact it may just about save the health of many of us.

Fuel efficient designs for cars have been around for years and decades only the companies were not permitted to put them into mass production. Why not? Because of vested interest of industry and government.

The chief executive of Ensus, the company which is building Europe's largest biorefinery in North East England, said: "We are very concerned at the suggestion of backtracking on existing commitments under the RTFO.

"We think this is unnecessary when sustainable production can already be achieved."

Well, he would say that, would he not for he has a vested interest in the production of biofuels. What we have to do is go back to the drawing board and rethink what we are doing.

While it might have looked at the beginning as if we had an answer to something there with biofuels it would seem now that we rather do not and therefore we should put on the brakes here for the present and look at more sustainable transport, whether electric vehicles or human-powered vehicles or animal power.

Do we really have to use the motorcar in the way that we do? No, we do not.

Food for thought... so long as we still have food...

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008