Friday, June 13, 2008

Notes from Biofuels conference in Cork

Metropole Hotel, Run by Ethical Development Action filmed and slides and video available in about 3 days.

As previously noted somewhere here - 1 Cow produces same greenhouse gas emissions as an SUV, but the inputs required to fill an SUV tank with biodiesel is equivalent to the food production inputs that would feed a person in the developed world for a year! Push to increase biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol) is increasing food prices for people in the developing world (other factors include climate, speculation and oil price).

By the US and EU creating regulations to demand a percentage of biofuels we are artificially creating a market for biofuels. More than 50% of EU consumption will have to come from outside the EU as there is not the land available. For Brazil this has meant massive capital coming into the country and going to rent land with suitable infrastructure for the production of biofuels. Brazil already has almost the highest disparity in land use, so landless peasants are being displaced to make way for crop productions.

Brazil's new car sales are now 90% flexfuel (petrol and ethanol) with 9 familiar car producers that include Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford and Peugeot and when you pull up to the pumps, you have a choice of your mix of fuels.

But the impact on the country of vast monocultures and the planned increase area causing huge concerns from both a social and climate change perspective.

Major challenges for African countries and Ethiopia and other Sub-Saharan countires in particular.
Food Security - price of stable food crop has trebled in last year.
Energy Security only 24kwh/capita/year and oil prices continue to increase
Water Requirement - for sugar can in particular, 4000l water per 1l of ethanoel and 9,000l per ha.

- energy security
- rural development
- decrease GHG emissions

- monoculture cropping, esp sugarcane, oil palm and sweet sorghum. These crops need processing shortly after harvesting. Export orientated model.
- cooperative model -
- combination model - monoculture + small holders to supply large companies
- small scale - 4 machines, crush, dehusk, mill and generator. Jatropha can be harvested and stored before milling at a later date, it requires little irrigation and fertilizer and can be intercropped with other crops. The generator is fueled with biodiesel from Jatropha and can supply electricity for the local village. This infrastructure can initially be setup using diesel fuel and switch later to biodiesel.

70l diesel to produce an acre of cereals (plough, till, sow, fertilise, spray, harvest).
20c in every $1 spent on food goes on distribution

Cause of rise in food prices:
- switch to fuels
- weather events (esp. australia)
- speculative trading in oil and other commodities with property out of favour.
- increasing affluence and changing diet - more meat.
Chinese meat consumption per capita - 1985 20kg, 2007 50kg
3kg cereal => 1kg port
8kg cereal => 1kg beef
- food prices fallen 75% in real terms in last 30 years so few young farmers.

EU - 10% liquid biofuel substitution by 2020 = 5mt/pa of biomass needed in Ireland to meet target.

Biogas- km/ha biodiesell 23, biooeth 29, blt 60, biogass 94.
Excise relief allocation -

Q. For Farmer with Plant hire business - looking for solution with zero waste -everything is used.
Pure plant oil - cost of plant, cost of vehicle modification and situation on fuel tax, land per liter.
Biogas - for electricity and for vehicle use.
Checkout elsbett and ecocar for ppo conversion kits
Checkout grooil

If using biofuels in road going vehicles then generally subject to road tax - if off-road such as tractor or plant equipment, then like green diesel so no tax.

Digester with 100kwh capactiy about €500k to produce biogas and linked to CHP plant. Vehicles require engine conversion. Possibility of 30% grant from SEI for Digester/Biogas project.

PPO setup for 1000tones/yr processing plant €200-250k

Biofuel is green right? Takes 320 years to payback saving in GHG if growing soybean in virgin amazon rainforest. Best is sugarcane to ethanol in virgin ground in Brazil, payback in 17 years.

Biofuels are still a ludicrously expensive way of reducing emissions from transport - cost €600-800 per tonne/co2


simplicator said...

Soybeans are 10% oil and the rest is soy meal, which is fed to livestock. You claim that one tank of biodiesel is enough to feed a person for a year and I ask why are you drinking soy oil?

For every pound of biodiesel made from soy oil, 9 pounds of soy meal is produced. This means that if biodiesel gets us to produce more soy oil, we will produce 9 times that amount in meal, increasing the supply and reducing the price of food.

I grow jatropha and make it into biodiesel because soy oil is too expensive. I use land that is not suitable for growing crops, I will soon employ thousands of people in rural areas of the tropics where there have never been jobs, I keep the fuel in the same country the jatropha is grown to help the local economy, the trees are planted, tended and harvested by hand, our net CO2 may be the most negative on the planet, our energy ratio is off the charts. My operations are orders of magnitude better than making biodiesel from soy, but if it weren't for soy I wouldn't have gotten into the biodiesel business in the first place.

My point is, don't believe 99% of what you read about biofuels stealing food out of the mouths of children. Biofuels aren't perfect, but they are a lot better than petroleum which is the real cause of the rising price of everything, not just food and is the cause of global warming. All of the dirt being kicked on biofuels comes from those who will profit from our acceptance of the status quo. Millions of dollars are being spent on propaganda against biofuels in an attempt to kill biofuels before they grow up and become a real threat to petroleum.

Phoebe Bright said...

I agree absolutely with what you say. Biofuels are not bad, it's the way you do it. The big problem seems to be western countries directly replacing food crops with fuel crops as though it was really viable to fuel our current lifestyles on from biofuels.

In the conference Jatropha was mentioned many times as an excellent choice of crop for biofuels. Where are you based?

simplicator said...

I live in San Jose, California, with operations in Ghana, West Africa and Chile.