back to article Government told to ditch biofuel targets

Biofuels are not the magic answer to oil shortages or global warming. The Environmental Audit Committee, made up of UK MPs, said today the EU and UK governments were wrong to impose targets to encourage more use of biofuels, and that the use of such fuel could lead to environmental damage in the UK and elsewhere in the world …


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  1. Karl Lattimer

    at least...

    someone told them it was a daft idea... I've been saying it for years.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...rely on fossil fuels..."

    Only because there isn't any biofuel yet to power the conversion process. I hope no one is stupid enough to endorse biofuel that doesn't yield more energy than it takes to make.

    I'm sure someone will be fudging figures somewhere that make biofuels look more attractive because the numbers don't account for the cost of conversion from biomass to biofuel. I'm equally sure there will be other people fudging the figures the other way, ignoring factors that make biofuels more efficient.

    Where's the research on vat-growing cyanobacteria and other algae? Hm?

  3. Robert Grant

    Fag packet


    Disclaimer: all statistics cribbed from potentially wildly inaccurate Internet sources.

    Biodiesel efficiency = 60mpg.

    Distance driven in a year in the UK: 300,000,000 miles.

    Therefore amount of biodiesel required = 5,000,000 gallons.

    From :

    Rapeseed generates 1190 litres of oil per hectare, with an 80% conversion to biodiesel, so you get 952 litres of biodiesel per hectare.

    952 litres = 209.4 Imperial gallons.

    So you need 5000000/209.4 hectares to generate the required amount of fuel

    = 24000 hectares of oil seed rape.


    The Isle of Wight is 380 hectares. Let's cover most of it with crop, and the rest with processing facilities, and just leave the cool crazy golf course at Blackgang Chine. Job done.

  4. Bronek Kozicki

    still long way off

    biofules are not the answer to civilization energy needs, unless coupled with methods of production that do not cost the Earth. And for this we need cheap and environmentaly friendly electricity, which, for now, is just a dream.

  5. Matthew

    Not always daft

    I've been running my diesel car on biodiesel made from vegetable oil recycled from local restaurants. This means that it isn't being used as a fuel until long after it has fulfilled its primary purpose. In fact, if I didn't use it to run my car it would go into landfill!

    And the government's problem is that they assume we'll be turning over cornfields to make biofuels. In fact, crops like Jatropha are ideal sources for biofuel: they're inedible (so don't redirect a food crop) and grow in arid (even desert) conditions and don't need irrigation. It also absorbs loads of CO2...

    In other words, we can grow this fuel on land that doesn't support conventional crops, reduce CO2 output as it grows, and get away from fossil oils.

    Sounds like a win all round to me!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As mentioned elsewhere. If the world removes forest to grow bio-fuel, then it's just in reverse gear.

    There seems to be a lot of knee-jerk going on when it comes to green issues. So long as someone's life is made more difficult, then that's usually something to endorse and feel good about.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...rely on fossil fuels..."

    Of course, fossil fuels also rely on fossil fuels to get them to market, the pumps are diesel electric, the boats, the trucks, the manufacturing of the rigs, the helicopters getting to the rigs.

    Given the high torque/low mileage requirements of farm equipment, you'd have expected an electric tractor by now wouldn't you?

  8. Jason The Saj

    Stop using corn - use fecal fed algae instead...

    Take all the over-fertilize water output from our sewage treatment plants. Stop dumping it in rivers and oceans and causing lethal algae blooms.

    Instead ship it to nice sunny desert areas like (Arizona). Which can build square miles of flat shallow lakes with algae and pond scum. Feed them the over-fertilize water. The algae will bloom and grow (and also pull vast amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere). Then we harvest the algae and convert it to biofuels - ethanol!


    We reduce our fossil fuel load, we reduce our depended on middle-eastern oil, and we reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  9. Richard Jones

    Bio fuel

    Am I the only one who is getting hacked off by the special interests groups who try to shut out anything except their own choice? Last week an 'wind farm promoter' slagged off the idea of fuel from bio waste, saying the industry estimates based on currently known waste details suggest it could only supply 1% of our needs. Yet it would also cut down on methane discharge. By giving bio waste a value, and yes it includes all THAT sort of bio waste... there is little doubt that more raw, (some very raw!) material would be found. Even at 1% of present demand it would be 5~10% of the target reduction in fossil fuel usage and need no shipping, water, (it comes with its own) or crop space.


  10. Steve Foster

    Crop replacement

    There's one obvious crop that can be safely replaced without causing us all to starve to death (as-if!): tobacco. The EU is one of the world's largest tobacco producers today. Time to shift all that to something less harmful and more useful - a biofuel source.

  11. Jamtits

    "Biofuels reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere."

    How naive are these new world religion zealots to think that by growing a crop (which rightly so, consumes carbon dioxide) reduces CO2 levels?

    Yes, if you were to put the plant matter into a sealed vat at the end of it's life so it could not secrete that carbon dixoide again.

    Combusting biomass in any form will release carbon, which binds with oxygen and lo and behold, you get more plant fuel. Sorry, I mean evil, life killing CO2 which is the flatulence of the incandescant, (non bio fuel) land rover using devil.

    Carbon dixoide is not a pollutant. I'm far more worried about spent uranium and sulphur dixoide, as well as heavy metal runoff.

  12. Joe Stalin

    @Stop using corn - use fecal fed algae instead

    Correct. The trick with biofuel is to manufacture it in house, so to speak. The Brazilians drive around in ethanol powered cars and did little damage outside their own borders. Growing corn on Africa and Palm oil in Indonaisa and transporting them to the UK/EU is insanity least of all because cost of moving the stuff half way round the globe.

    p.s. This Palm oil, have you seen what else it is used for, it like the old Whale oil used in everything. Any budding scientist could make a name for themselves by inventing a synthetic to replace it.

  13. Chad H.


    geothermal is the way to go.. Theres enough hot air in the future fuels debate to power us forever.

  14. Martin Gregorie

    Why biofuel is a bad idea

    George Monbiot pointed out in 2004 that to fuel UK's road transport on biodiesel made from rape seed will need 25.9 m hectares of farm land, but there is only 5.7 m hectares of farm land in the UK. So, even if we used the whole island we'd only replace 10% of our transport fuel - and have to import ALL our food. If we devoted a more reasonable 20% of our farmland we'd get.... a whole 2% of transport fuel needs. and we'd STILL need to import food, which could easily sop up that 2% unless it arrives in sailing ships.

    I really wish the NFU spokesman would do the math before sounding off: as it is, he merely makes himself look like an arse.

    I'm against importing any biofuel. To me that's merely stealing other peoples farmland and food so we can feel smug and ever so green while they live in an agro-wasteland and starve.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Why biofuel is a bad idea

    How much oil and gas are we importing?

    Have you considered flooding Arizona with shit?

    (fecal fed algae if we must be PC)

  16. Turbojerry

    @Stop using corn - use fecal fed algae instead

    There has been a lot of work done on algae biodiesel, which is really the only option, all other feed stocks are too slow to grow and take a large amount of energy to convert, if anyone is interested check out these links-

    Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae

    Algaculture at Wikipedia

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Perfect source of domestically produced biofuel...

    ... Why don't we just burn the politicians that dream up these crazy plans and subsidies? Based upon the amount of hot air they secret, they must be a rich source of energy, and there is a large enough domestic supply in both the US and UK to power the grid for centuries.

  18. Eugene Goodrich

    Jatropha not so good

    Headline: Toxic jatropha not magic biofuel crop, experts warn

    "... it is a labour-intensive crop as each fruit ripens at a different time and needs to be harvested separately.


    The oil yield of the plant, originating in Africa and still largely a wild species, is less than 2 tonnes per hectare with large swings from year to year.


    ... special facilities [are] needed for crushing jatropha nuts as they [can] produce a toxic vapour."

    Not sure how many tonnes are in a gallon...

  19. alphaxion

    another domestic fuel source

    I've said it for years, why don't we develop our own "matrix" power generators and slap chavs into them.

    The program wouldn't need to be complex, just give them a never ending repeat of football matches, pubs and big brother repeats - their minds will never rebell, they breed at a pace that makes cockroaches look on in awe and are too dumb to figure a way out.

    The rest of society can carry on with our new power source and it'll cut crime rates too!

  20. Michael

    @Stop using corn - use fecal fed algae instead

    You could be in a pile of ............trouble.. if someone rear-ends your methane digester. I do like "another domestic fuel source" matrix idea , though .... wonder how many chavs you can get in the boot!!

  21. steve

    Chavs in a boot

    I'm pretty sure i can fit about 6 chavs in the boot of my little punto. More if you chop them up. Not that i've tried >.>

  22. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Steve Foster

    Great, counter zealotry with zealotry.

    Also cobblers. The EU produced (2000 figures - projected to decline slightly) 314,000 tonnes of tobacco. It also *consumed* (also 2000 - also projected to decline ever-so-slightly-more) 724,000 tonnes (source: UN FAO). So the majority of it's imported anyway and all you're doing here is importing more of something else rather than fuel biomass.

    Either way it's small beer compared to the global production and consumption of over 6 million tonnes, of which China chucks out more than 2 million (projected to rise by a shedload more than twice the total EU production).

    Must be smoke break time.

  23. Andy

    Chav / matrix power source.

    when the council estates are empty, we can move onto the prisons.

    then those lifers can contribute something back to society...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "...jatropha...fruit ripens at a different time...still largely a wild species..."

    We're pretty good at selective breeding. I bet we can develop a few consistent-fruiting varieties to ensure year-round availability and ordered harvests.

    Any widescale exploitation of the sandy wastes by vegetation assisted by man is also going to have knock-on benefits of reversing the desertification of sub-Saharan Africa.

    From the article:

    "...five years of intensive research before jatropha could achieve productivity that would make its cultivation economically viable..."

    Doesn't seem too far off. Certainly closer than Fusion.

  25. Paul Murray

    The big one

    Commercial farmin uses enormous amounts of syntheic fetilizer. Synthetic fertilizer is made from oil.

    It's that simple. When the oil runs out, the "green revolution" will be over. Biofuels are the least of our worries. There will not be enough food.

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