Friday, April 04, 2008

Foolish about Biofuels.

Rising Tide, and several other groups got together on April Fools day to rebrand it Fossil Fools Day, and a whole range of foolish construction projects and policies where highlighted. Well, in the dash away from fossil fuels, one possible option has been latched onto as a way of maintining hypermobility; biofuels.
With widespread deforestation being drivin by demand for biofuel crops, this is starting to look like a bad idea!

On 15th April Bio-Fools day is being launched with a protest at Downing street at 6pm, this date was chosen as it is the launch of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), and environmetal policy that stands a good chance of doing worse than breaking even on environmental criteria!
"The RTFO will mean that all petrol and diesel must contain a minimum percentage of ‘biofuel’. This will drastically increase the demand for ‘biofuels’ or ‘agrofuels’, that is fuels that are made from living plants (rather than the “fossilised” ones that make up oil and coal). The theory is that because these fuels absorb as much CO2 when they grow, as they emit when they are burnt, they are basically ‘carbon neutral’. Now, ‘biofuels’ made from waste materials like used chip fat are fine…. but these could only ever supply a fraction of the demand if we use biofuels to replace any significant proportion of the transport fuel that now comes from fossil fuels. To do this requires growing crops for fuel (eg rapeseed, palm oil, soy, sugar cane or jatropha) on a massive scale (this is why we use the term “agrofuels”).

This increases the pressure on land and in places like Brazil and Indonesia this increases the pressure on the rain forest and other surviving biodiverse ecosystems. Clearance for palm oil plantations is now the biggest driver behind deforestation in Indonesia and an increase in the price of soy (caused by increased demand) is seen as the main cause of the recent huge increase in the rate of deforestation in Brazil. Even if agrofuels are produced from, say, “certifiably sustainable” rapeseed in Europe this can have knock-on effects – it means there is less rapeseed available to produce cooking oils and foodstuffs and this results in a massively increased demand for Indonesian palm oil to fill the gap."

More on biofuels here.

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