Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The main problem with biofuels is the miserably low efficiency when considering the whole field-to-wheels chain. Even if you can produce the actual fuel in a sustainable way, you then waste 80% of the energy just between the fuel tank and the wheel. In this way biofuels will only help to prolong the life of an outdated technology. Far better to aggressively promote electric vehicles.

Piebalgs does mention increased fuel efficiency as one way to reduce the oil dependency, but even the new proposals from the Commission are very modest, and seem not to do anything to promote radical new alternatives that would really reduce CO2 emissions.                                                                
Additionally, from the point of view of CO2 reduction, biofuels are up against competing uses for the same biomass. There are considerable losses in the conversion of raw biomass to biofuels, whether it is starch/cellulose to ethanol or vegetable oil to biodiesel. CO2 abatement can be reached more effectively if biomass is burned to produce electricity (replacing coal). This works even better if it is combined with production of heat for district heating, as already happens in Denmark.  

Of course it would be silly to completely exclude biofuels as some might be made from residues from existing agricultural/forestry production. It is also possible to produce a modest amount in a sustainable way and without increasing imports from places where it may be produced by, say, cutting down the rainforest. But you have to very careful about it. For instance, if you use sunflower seed oil for biofuels you can only use whatever extra can be produced within Europe, because as soon as you start reducing the amount available to existing consumers they will respond by finding alternatives, such as palm oil.

I should stress here that my only qualification to speak about biofuels is as a European citizen!


Real capricorns don't believe in astrology.

by tomhuld (thomas punkt huld at jrc punkt it) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 12:40:29 PM EST

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