[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.
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
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
'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
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
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
"And also, it requires a big effort of energy to convert (the raw materials) to
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
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.
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
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."
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
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