Can biofuels be sustainable?
ENDS is reporting that the Department for Transport has set up a watchdog, the Renewable Fuels Agency, to help ensure that biofuels used in the UK come from sustainable sources. This is timely with the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) coming into force in April 2009, which will require 5% of all vehicle fuels sold in the UK to be biofuels.
Biodiesel seemed to go from eco-saviour to eco-demon in record time. Originally held up as a carbon neutral solution to transport emissions, the pressure that growing the crops will have on food prices or pristine habitats. Uber green George Monbiot is particularly critical of the industry and his comments are worth reading.
Paul Mobbs, in his rigorous analysis of the global energy situation, calculates there simply isn’t enough land area in the UK to convert to 100% biodiesel. However, Peter Kendall, president of the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU), says that there is enough agricultural land to deliver the 5% biofuel target without reducing food production. So maybe the new agency could ensure that the 5% target can be met in an environmentally sustainable way.
Of course, as everyone agrees, making biodiesel out of old cooking oil is AOK. I’ve never seen an analysis of how much fuel could be produced from this source, but if you can get it, take it!