[permaculture] BBC NEWS | Europe | Denmark seeks biofuel solutions

lbsaltzman at aol.com lbsaltzman at aol.com
Wed Apr 11 14:44:12 EDT 2007


I think biofuels will play a role in the job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  But I fear that people are living in a state of delusion on techno fixes, especially where cars are concerned.  I will be utterly amazed if a sustainable replacement for gasoline and diesel can be produced in the quantities necesary to keep cars on the road in the numbers we now have, or to drive the miles we now do - assuming it is even a good if we could.  However, if we can produce enough biofuels to keep rail, public transportation, ambulances, fire trucks and police on the road that would be a substantial achievement. Hopefully there will remain the possibility of limited personal driving in a sustainable way, but I am not a total optimist on that.
 
My fear is that we will end up destroying valuable farm and wildland in pursuit of bio-fuels. I hope I am wrong.
 
-----Original Message-----
From: lfl at intrex.net
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 11:15 AM
Subject: [permaculture] BBC NEWS | Europe | Denmark seeks biofuel solutions



<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6539379.stm>

Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Denmark seeks biofuel solutions
By Alix Kroeger
BBC News, Copenhagen

Haybale being used for biomass
The Danes turn hay and wood into biofuel for power
The European Union has committed itself to increase the share of biofuels used 
in transport to 10% by 2020.

It is one of a package of measures to cut emissions of greenhouse gases like 
carbon dioxide (CO2).

The aim is to reduce the impact of climate change, as well as Europe's 
dependence on fossil fuels. But will it work?

In a laboratory on the outskirts of Copenhagen, a technician measures out 
beakers of a foamy brown liquid, seals them 
and writes out the label.

The beakers contain enzymes which could help break down wood and straw into 
biofuel that can be used in cars: what is 
known as second-generation biofuel.

It is one of the most important areas of research if the EU is to meet its 2020 
binding target.

'Reduce oil dependency'

The chief executive of Novozymes, Steen Riisgaard, says second-generation 
biofuels will offer an 85% cut in carbon 
emissions, including the energy needed to produce them.

"We don't claim that this is the silver bullet that will save the world and the 
climate," he cautions. "This is one of 
many technologies we can bring to bear to reduce CO2 emissions and also our 
dependency on oil."

    
Amager power station in Denmark
Amager power station burns straw and wood pellets

Quick guide: biofuels

Novozymes estimate it will be four to five years before the second-generation 
fuels are on the market.

In the past few years, interest in biofuels has soared, thanks to the 
combination of high oil prices and concern about 
climate change.

But not all biofuels have the same carbon profile. The first generation are made 
from food crops, such as maize, 
rapeseed, palm oil and sugarcane.

The Danish government is among those who say first-generation biofuels are not 
sustainable.

Although it exempts first-generation fuels from the 3-eurocent-per-litre carbon 
tax on petrol and diesel, only research 
into the second generation qualifies for tax breaks.

"We think the CO2 account is not sufficiently good," says Hans Jorgen Koch, the 
Danish deputy state secretary for 
energy. "There's only a reduction of 10 to 15% if we use the first-generation 
technologies.

"And also, it requires a big effort of energy to convert (the raw materials) to 
first-generation biofuels."

Forests and food

There are other costs, too. A recent UN report warned that large sections of 
Indonesian forest were being cleared, often 
illegally, to make way for palm oil plantations. The forests soak up CO2, which 
would otherwise increase global warming.

In Mexico, there were riots in February after the price of maize quadrupled, 
pushed up by the demand for biofuels.

In Europe, more farmers are switching to biofuel crops, encouraged by rising 
prices and cuts in subsidies for food 
production. The Green Party in the European Parliament warns that this will put 
pressure on global food prices at the 
expense of the poor.

Denmark is already a leader in green energy. Much of Copenhagen gets its heat 
and electricity from biomass: wood and 
straw which is converted into pellets before being burnt in a specially adapted 
power station.

On his farm at Tureby, in central Denmark, Torben Lange uses a small tractor 
with two giant forks attached to the front 
to load bales of straw onto one of his lorries.

Each bale weighs more than 500kg (1,100 pounds). In all, he sends 16,500 tonnes 
of straw, most of it bought from 
neighbouring farmers, to a plant in nearby Koge, where it is made into pellets.

Dan Belusa of Greenpeace
Dan Belusa of Greenpeace says biofuels have their own problems

"It's good for our business," Mr Lange says, "because straw prices have been 
very low for the past five or six years. So 
when they use the straw (for biopellets), the price will probably go up."

Ships take the pellets to the power station at Amager, on the coast near 
Copenhagen - the least environmentally damaging 
way of transporting them.

The environmental pressure group Greenpeace says Denmark simply does not have 
enough wood and straw both to supply the 
power station and to make second-generation biofuels.

"We already have a very efficient use of our available biomass. Nearly 90% of 
the energy is actually benefiting in the 
form of heat or power. If we take the same biomass and turn it into biofuels, we 
only have half that energy value," says 
Dan Belusa from Greenpeace.

And the petrol which would be replaced by biofuels has a much less damaging 
greenhouse effect than the coal which would 
be burned instead of biomass, he adds.

'Bio' petrol

At the Statoil filling station in Lyngby, motorists filling up with petrol are 
already putting a percentage of biofuel 
in their tanks.

Statoil is the only company in Denmark to market "bio" petrol. It began selling 
it at this petrol station 10 months ago 
and now offer it at two-thirds of their 300-odd stations.

The biofuel comes from a pool in Rotterdam, about 85% of which is produced in 
Europe. It is first-generation, but 
Statoil say it is sustainable, that the fuel takes less carbon to produce and 
transport than it generates when it is used.

"We have made some calculations, together with the Danish Ministry of the 
Environment, and that shows that Danish cars 
save about 120kg of carbon dioxide per year (from using the "bio" petrol)," says 
Statoil spokesman Per Brinch.

It will be another four or five years before second-generation biofuels are on 
the market.

Meanwhile, companies like Statoil are responding to consumer concerns about 
climate change and environmental sustainability.

The arguments around biofuels are complex. Environmentalists say the "bio" 
prefix misleads people into believing such 
fuels must be environmentally friendly.

But isn't there a risk that such criticisms leave consumers feeling powerless 
and unwilling to change their behaviour if 
it is unlikely to make a difference?

"It is very important that the individual acts on addressing climate change," 
says Dan Belusa from Greenpeace. "But it's 
also important that the politicians put the subsidies in the direction where 
they're going to make a difference."
        
SEE ALSO
EU fuel push 'may damage forests'
02 Apr 07 |  UK
Biofuels: Green energy or grim reaper?
22 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Growing demand for non-food crops
18 Apr 06 |  Science/Nature
Biofuel raises global dilemmas
17 Jan 06 |  Business

RELATED BBC LINKS
Fuelling the Future

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
UN report on biofuels
Novozymes biomass
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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