Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, recently argued that biofuel could add £2bn to the price of petrol by 2020 based on its recent research. Not only is this announcement a simplified criticism of an emerging industry, but coming from an environmental agency it could potentially harm public view of the bio fuel sector.
Before you can walk you must crawl. If you've ever seen a baby standing up for the first time, you'll know that going from four-ped to two is never instantaneous. It's a cautious process involving sways, tumbles, bumps and sometimes even tears.
The UK Bio fuel industry is trying to find its feet as the EU and international government set ambitious sustainable development goals. It's true the bio fuel sector lacks balance, there have already been plenty of bumps and tears I'm sure, but that's no reason to negate the impact it will have on decreasing the UK's greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
EU renewable energy directives are aiming to increase green energy usage to 20% by 2020. The UK has set its sights on a target of 15% with transport energy making up 10% of that.
Currently, biofuel makes up four per cent of road transport fuel with regulations demanding that rise to 5% by 2013. Getting to 10% in just eight years is a big ask considering the nascent stages of biofuel technology and investor interests.
Friends of the Earth predict that bioethanol fuel will be 16-35p more expensive than petrol per litre and biodiesel 29-42p more expensive than diesel putting a strain on consumers and businesses.
Any oil market investor will tell you the difficulties in foreseeing the price of oil-per-barrel in three months, much less eight years. Instead of disregarding bio fuels as a future burden on consumer's wallets, Friends of the Earth should encourage the industry to expand on cheaper alternatives that not rely so heavily on food biomass.
A new project in Teeside looks promising as it uses bio-degradable commercial and household waste to make car fuel and electricity. Rubbish to make your car run, who would have thought?! Plans like this would also alleviate some of Friends of the Earth's concerns about the biofuel industry's impact on poor and developing nations.
According to its research, international biofuels companies have claimed land larger than the British Isles, robbing local communities of their livelihoods and pushing up food prices. The study also claims that the C02 emissions from growing crops for biofuels could increase by 13 million tonnes a year.
It's good that Friends of the Earth are coming forth with this information as a harsh criticism of an industry that in theory holds sustainability to high regard. This industry, like any other, could contribute to the decline of social sustainability which is why UK and EU governments need to establish standards and tight regulations, especially if they are going to push such ambitious green energy goals. Not only will strict governance keep costs down and prevent exploitation of poorer countries, it will show the public that biofuels are a safe and reliable alternative to petrol or diesel.
There is no one solution to lowering green house gases and certainly no one solution within biofuels. We've got still much to learn about alternatives to fossil fuels. While government targets might be demanding, the technology developed today will form the foundation for better and more sustainable technology tomorrow which could be used in tandem with the other green alternatives Friends of the Earth propose like improved public transport, more efficient cars and safer cycling networks.
If we and future generations are ever to benefit from the growth in leaps and bounds of the biofuel industry, we must first accept that there are going to be tumbles and falls along the way.
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