Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Other “Green” Initiatives - Biofuels

There are other “Green” initiatives that have arisen as a result of concerns over CO2 emissions.

These include biofuels, hybrid car technology (such as the Toyota Prius), and replacing filament light bulbs with compact fluorescent varieties. Each of these looks on the face of it as a marvellous step in the right direction and it is hard to argue otherwise but are they quite as environmentally friendly as they are presented?

Let us firstly examine the Biofuels:

Biofuels such as the 10% blended ethanol varieties are promoted as “green” alternatives to straight unleaded petrol as they are supposed to lower the CO2 emissions of the vehicle whilst causing no noticeable damage to the engine or drop off in performance. All of this appears to be true, despite the concerns raised initially about the effect on engines and subsequent warranty claims should something go wrong. So where is the harm?

In his article The Great Biofuels Con”, (July 2008) environmental journalist Chris Booker examined the fallout caused by the rush to “green” our fuels in the West.

Two years ago biofuels were still being hailed as a dream solution to what was seen as one of the most urgent problems confronting mankind – our dependence on fossil fuels, which are not only finite but seemed to be threatening the world with the catastrophe of global warming.

In March 2007 the leaders of the European Union, in a package of measures designed to lead the world in the "fight against climate change", committed us by 2020 to deriving 10 per cent of all transport fuel from "renewables", above all biofuels, which theoretically gave off no more carbon dioxide than was absorbed in their growing.

Since then, however, the biofuels dream has been disintegrating with the speed of a collapsing card house.

Environmentalists, formerly keen on this "green energy", expressed horror at the havoc it was inflicting on the world's eco systems, not least the clearing of rainforests to grow fuel crops.

As the world suddenly faced its worst food shortage for decades, sending prices spiralling, experts pointed out that a major cause had been diverting millions of acres of farmland from food production to fuel. The damage this was inflicting on the world's poor led a United Nations official to describe the rush for biofuels as "a crime against humanity".

As damaging as anything to the belief that biofuels could help save the planet from global warming have been various studies showing that producing biofuels can give off more carbon dioxide than they save.

the damage being done in the Third World, not least by the clearing for biofuels of vast areas of rainforest in Brazil and Indonesia, inter alia endangering the survival of Borneo's orang-utans.

According to the World Bank's top economist, Don Mitchell, biofuels had been responsible for three-quarters of the 140 per cent rise in world food prices between 2002 and 2008.

Most alarming of all to the global warming lobby, however, was a succession of studies showing that, far from helping to cut global CO2 emissions, biofuel production can often give off much more CO2 than it saves – not least by disturbing huge quantities of carbon dioxide locked in the soil which,
according to the University of Minnesota, could release "17 to 420 times more CO2" than is saved by the fuels themselves.

So Biofuels are now looking more like a “cane toad” solution to Climate Change. Despite these findings in Europe and the call to look more towards second generation biofuels, which use crop wastes and wood chips, that do not compete with food production, the New South Wales State Government in an attempt to raise their “green” credentials has mandated a level of Bio-diesel for their state - 2 per cent this year, rising to 5 per cent when sufficient supplies become available. In this article by reporter Greg Roberts of The Australian (Jan 2009) he finds:

AUSTRALIA is contributing directly to the widespread destruction of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia by importing millions of tonnes of taxpayer-subsidised biodiesel made from palm oil.

Imports of the fuel are rising, undermining the Rudd Government's $200 million commitment to reduce deforestation in the region - a problem that globally contributes to 20 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.

The bulldozing of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations is also putting further pressure on orangutans and other endangered wildlife throughout Southeast Asia. And the Australian biofuels industry says it is struggling to compete with the cheap imports from Asia, which are touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel.

Without action, the problem will only get worse, with demand for biodiesel imports likely to rise sharply when NSW legislates to introduce Australia's first biodiesel mandate - 2 per cent this year, rising to 5 per cent when sufficient supplies become available. But the Rudd Government is likely to come under pressure to follow the lead of other Western nations in banning imports of palm oil-based biodiesel. Biodiesel manufacturers in Australia use primarily tallow from abattoirs and recycled cooking oil.

Caltex, the biggest biodiesel customer in Australia, refuses to use palm oil-based fuel on environmental grounds, but it is being imported by independent operators.

Unlike imported ethanol, imported biodiesel is not subject to the 38.14c-a-litre fuel excise, so the biodiesel imports from Asia are effectively subsidised by Australian taxpayers.

…"Australia is seen as a dumping ground for palm oil-based biodiesel as there is no requirement for the fuel to be derived from sustainable resources." He said there was ample capacity in Australia to meet demand.

The Australian industry produces about 50 million litres of biodiesel a year, but has the capacity to produce much more. About 80 million litres will be needed annually to meet a 2 per cent mandate in NSW.

Indonesia has about 6 million hectares of palm oil plantation and Malaysia 4.5 million ha. Indonesia plans to double palm oil production by 2025 and is developing a plantation of 1.8 million ha in east Kalimantan.

To make way for
the plantation, the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Kalimantan is being bulldozed, with the loss of habitat for orang-utans, clouded leopards and other rare animals.

Again we see that there are in these cases severe consequences for not fully thinking a "solution" through. People in very poor third world nations being deprived of the very staples of life because their food is now the first world nations fuel. All to placate an activist "Green" movement intent on pursuing their agenda. We also see the the potential destruction of endangered species habitat that environmentalists should be striving to protect in order to meet their lobbied demands that we use blended fuels. Blended fuels that cost as much in CO2 to produce as it would have cost in CO2 to burn the equivalent amount of fossil fuel, gaining nothing but these losses in humanity and habitat.

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