back to article Gov: UK biofuel probably made of starvation, rainforests

The British government has released its first monthly report into biofuels used in the UK. It says that not much biofuel is used, and that in general it has very little idea if Blighty's biofuel is sustainably produced, what kind of land was used to make it or indeed where it comes from. The figures are issued by the new …


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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Hey, I've got this brilliant idea!

    Why don't we take perfectly good food crops and turn them into fuel?


  2. Mark

    Strange thinking

    "One might cautiously suggest, however, that the emerging popular picture of the linkage between current biofuel supplies and rainforest destruction and high food prices seems to be borne out."

    Given they don't know where it's coming from, what is producing it and how much, why is it that we can bind destruction of rainforest and high food prices to biofuel production?

    Heck, if this was about how burning oil produces global warming, you'd be jumping up and down, screaming like shit yelling "PROVE IT PROVE IT PROVE IT!!!!!" yet when it comes to man's effect when following "green" options, it's completely correct to draw conclusions based on "well, it's obvious that we can't rule destruction from humans out, so it must be true".

  3. Ferry Boat

    The Adventure Sport Series

    Sod 'sustainably produced', is it organic? Nothing worse than pesticides and fertilizer in your biofuel.

    Using valuable agricultural land to produce fuel while people go hungry. What a clever idea. At least we can drive around with our 1% biofuel petrol and save the planet. Makes me feel better anyway.

  4. Dunstan Vavasour

    So the simple message here is ...

    ... save the planet, burn fossil fuels?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    So we have the choice....

    ...of either all dying of starvation when global warming converts all the agricultural land to dust, or all dying of starvation because the biofuel we're growing to avoid global warming means there's no food to eat.


  6. Stephen Harris

    What happened to the food mountains

    Yes, people are going hungry, so we can't divert food production to fuel, but weren't we being told about european food mountains a few short years ago? Caused by subsidies and overproduction if I remember correctly. Only one of those things can be true.

    Random article talking about excess food production:

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Food price.

    It's high because of a high oil price and increasing demand in Asia, combined with poor investment in agriculture. The agriculture sector has been largely ignored because it wasn't worth anything, now, it could be.

    Besides there's an area the size of Zimbabwe full of prime farmland that's producing naff all. Could that be a problem too?

    We set a higher standard for bio fuels than for fossil fuels, what's the sustainability standard of diesel? By burning it and pushing up the price we are denying poor people power for electricity and heating, how nice is that?

    The bottom line is that we've increased the population on the back of a massive energy stash and now it's running out we haven't got enough energy for the population.

  8. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    What about chip fat?

    Pouring old cooking oil in your tank is the best of all, as there is no part of the production carbon allocated to its use as fuel, as it is actually food!

    Stinks of burnt chips when you rev it though.....

  9. Ferry Boat

    On Mole Hill

    @Stephen Harris - we paid the farmers to not produce anything for a while and the mountains just melted away. I personally drank the wine lake though.

  10. david

    @Stephen Harris

    the food mountain rots because it can not be given away and the cost of shipping it costs too much.

    This is only localised to europe whilst food shortages are in Asia and sub sarahan countries. its nota food shortage but more a food expense issue.

    Attempts to reform this over production of non-wanted food (cabbage wheat etc) are being blocked (or were at least) mainly by the french, maybe rape seed oil will replace it when it becomed more econimcally viable than western wheat rather than more econimonically viable the rice

  11. James Bassett
    Thumb Up

    Sunflower Oil

    You don't need to go to the Chipper/Local Chinese. Whilst food prices may have gone up, you can still make a significant saving by driving down to Tesco and buying several large (5l) bottles of cheapo vegetable oil and using that to power your Diesel car. It's crazy that this stuff is about 1/3 the cost of Diesel in the UK (thanks to the lack of fuel duty on it).

    You do need a LOT of bottles though.

  12. n


    that you could drive without guilt and tax free didn't you..........

    ....Oh yes, you go right ahead sir and fill your evil thirsty smart car you fat cat.......but just think about the starving black african babies with flies in their eyes who's food you are stealing!

    "what do we want? MORE TAX!


  13. JohnG

    Food, farmers and red tape

    If a farmer can get more profit and endure less red tape growing crops for bio-fuel, why the hell would he want to produce food? Maybe he would be worried the supermarket chains weren't getting enough profit already.

  14. Valdis Filks

    Sustainable ethanol, eat less sugar, drink less alcohol

    We need a balanced policy, biodiesel, ethanol & hybrid cars. So lets not kill our options and put ourselves in a corner. Ethanol as a fuel gets a lot of attention and scare stories, well so did electricity when we started using it.

    We need to change our lifestyle, Brits can eat less sugar and the Swedes can drink less alcohol.

    Strangely, British Sugar produce it sustainably in the UK from sugar beet, as people eat less sugar which is not good for them, we can use sugar beet for fuel, from their website (,,.aspx)


    In the UK, bioethanol can be economically produced by the fermentation of sugar beet or wheat. In our Wissington plant, we produce bioethanol from sugar beet which is supplied under contract by existing growers.

    Producing up to 55,000 tonnes (70 million litres) of bioethanol every year, the plant uses around 110,000 tonnes of sugar. This is equivalent to 650,000 tonnes of sugar beet. Beet supplied to British Sugar for bioethanol manufacture is grown on existing farm land.


    Bioethanol is produced by the fermentation of sugars followed by distillation to produce a pure alcohol.

    Fossil fuels are used in the production process but every effort is made to optimise fuel efficiency. British Sugar has embraced a system called Combined Heat & Power (CHP), recognised as one of the most fuel-efficient processes available. About 80% of the energy in the fuel is employed in the sugar manufacturing process. As a result of the close integration with the sugar factory we have been able to demonstrate savings in excess of 60% in CO2 emissions when compared to petrol."

    Q & A here:,,.aspx

    Also, those Swedes produce it:

    "SEKAB is one of the few companies in the world to continually produce ethanol from forestry products in a pilot plant – so-called cellulose ethanol or second-generation ethanol (read more about this under Introduction to cellulosic ethanol). The extraction method is based on leaching out the sugar in the cellulose using dilute acid before it is fermented to ethanol."

    They verify the source of imported ethanol, see myths & facts

    FAQ's here:

    Lets not kill a young industry with lots of promise, we are in the early days of ethanol, more needs to be done with research in enzymes for example so that we can make it out of more raw materials.

    From the NYTimes, which summed it up quite well.

    Even those who regard ethanol as the holy grail of energy policy concede that there is a right way and a wrong way to produce it. Done right, ethanol could help wean the country from its dependence on foreign oil while reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change. Done wrong, ethanol could wreak havoc on the environment while increasing greenhouse gases. Full article here:


    I drive a Saab 9-5t biopower (e.g. Ethanol/E85), but I like diesel/biodiesel too. We need to support new technologies to solve the energy problems facing society.

  15. Rune Moberg Silver badge

    paying the farmer

    There are more sides to this than not being able to feed the poor.

    First off, as has already been mentioned, the farmers were subsidized to halt their production. Lots of land in Europe, Russia and USA is now being used for growing ..nil.

    And you can't really ship all the excess food to starving nations. Once you do that, the local farmers will be unable to compete. You only end up generating more poor people that must be fed.

    The EU is, in a way, actively doing that already. Milk farmers in Europe are heavily subsidized, so they produce a lot of milk. Much more than we actually need. This milk is then turned into milk powder. Again there's just too much of it for anyone in Europe to handle. Instead we ship powdered milk off to poor countries and as a result we manage to totally put all milk farmers in third-world countries out of business. They can't possibly compete with heavily subsidized powdered milk.

    The price of grain has been on a historic low for a long time. The prices are now slightly increasing, but are a far cry away from what we had to pay 20-30 years ago. Agriculture is again a viable business and it might be possible to cut subsidies. We finally have a choice.

    According to a Swedish interest group (, Brazil produces most of the ethanol used in Sweden. states that 320 million hectares out of Brazil's roughly 850 million hectares is used for agriculture. Only 2.66 million hectares is dedicated for producing sugar canes that is turned into ethanol. And it happens far from the rain forrest.

    There are also links (on's page) to reports showing that producing ethanol could be a viable way of helping third-world countries emerge from poverty.

    Some of these facts make me question the motives of the politicians now trying to convince us that we shouldn't use ethanol. Ignorance or corruption?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    i use them...

    I use Biodiesel - made from old cooking oil, so at least its not being land-fill, which must be better...

    Well, at the moment, i am in living in Tokyo, where i use public transport - BECAUSE IT WORKS, its everything public transport isnt in the uk, its clean, cheap, regular and ON TIME, here if my train is 1 min late, i get a slip to show my boss why i am late...

    also, this morning when i got off my bus a trainee driver gave me a respectful bow and said thanks so much for using the bus and i look forward to serving you in the future, and how much did this cost? less than 1 pound. Then i got on my train which was exactly on time and i traveled about 8 miles on a trains with no ripped seats or scratched/graffitied windows, oh with my travel pass, it costs me less than 2 pound a day for the return trip.

    so now ask me why i am not using a car in japan???

    so you are thinking, what about going out? well me and my girlfriend took a trip to the mountains, 50 min by train - total cost for the return ticket... 5 pounds

    Now, i am sure you have seen the Top Gear race in japan Clarkson in the car in Tokyo didnt hit any traffic jams BECAUSE why even bother taking a car or owning one because the public transport is so damn good. (and you can get car parking places...)

    and just to add salt to the wound... petrol is 185 yen a litre, so about 85p....

    if public transport was like this in the uk, then of course people would use it... but i think its going to require more of a mind set change than just losing the car...

    i have found i quite like people being nice and respectful to me even though i am a Gaijin

    (and the weather here is mostly hot and sunny-ish :) )

    Enjoy your traffic jam on the way home - it will take me *exactly* 17 mins to get back to my home station during rush hour...

  17. Dave


    "biodiesels are thought by some to have much greater potential for being sustainably sourced"

    That would be by idiots, yes?

    Ethanol can be brewed from food/farming waste - diesel has to come from refined crops, so no chance of ever being used large scale. And as for: 'just go to you local chippy' - has anyone done the maths on litres per chippy vs litres per car / lorry / bus ??

  18. Raving

    Soylent Green Biodiesel

    The eco-friendly way of recycling penguins.

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