back to article Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

The craze for biofuels* - a part of EU legislation for a decade** now - is costing Europeans a fortune and isn't even environmentally friendly, a new report (PDF) by renowned British thinktank Chatham House argues. In the name of "climate change reduction", the EU passed a mandate requiring 10 per cent of transport energy to …

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  1. Mr Nobody 1

    to answer the headline question

    Mildly shittier than pathetic windmills.

    1. dave 93
      WTF?

      Re: to answer the headline question

      No, this article misses the point, and ignores the difficulty of changing human behaviour.

      Raising awareness of all alternatives to unsustainable fossil fuels, by kick-starting initiatives and investment to produce sustainable fuels, of which biofuels and wind power are notable examples, is a 'Good Thing'.

      Putting the Climate Change debate to one side - Left to market forces there would be no alternatives until the fossil fuels started to run out - and this is another example of the selfish theft from future generations that we, 'post-Industrial Revolution' humans, will be remembered for.

      Nice to be able to comment on Andrew's articles for a change :-)

      1. El Presidente
        Facepalm

        Re: to answer the headline question

        @ dave 93

        I got to word seven, paragraph two of your post before shouting BINGO!

        Anyone who's been in TPP meetings will know what I mean.

        1. Anonymous Coward 101

          Re: to answer the headline question

          "I got to word seven, paragraph two of your post before shouting BINGO!"

          Yes, it sounded like a 'Green Energy' trade association press release calling for more swill to be poured into the trough. Normal people do not use phrases like 'raising awareness'.

      2. Irongut

        Re: to answer the headline question

        So it's better to cause more people in the world to starve and increase any climate change caused by burning fuels in order to make industry think about not using oil? That's some very stupid logic right there. Are you a Grenpeace member?

        1. Potemkine Silver badge

          Re: to answer the headline question

          People starve in the world not because there is not enough food, but because that food cannot reach them. Disruptions caused by wars and corruption are the cause of starvation in most countries, accusing biofuel is a far-fetched argument.

      3. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: to answer the headline question

        @dave 93 Left to market forces there would be no alternatives until the fossil fuels started to run out

        I think what you mean is this. Left to market forces nobody would waste money and effort on alternatives until the fossil fuels started to run out and the resulting rise in price made the alternative viable.

        There isn't going to be one day when the last oil trickles out of the last well and "the market" says "Oops! We should have developed an alternative". The reserves of fossil fuels are actually quite large, but the cost of extraction of much of it means that it's not currently worth it. As more and more expensive-to-extract fossil fuels come into use, so it becomes more worthwhile to develop alternatives.

      4. Armando 123

        Re: to answer the headline question

        "Raising awareness "

        Ah yes, "Raising awareness ", the phrase used by people who want to LOOK like they're doing something important when they're not actually doing anything.

        (Yes, I am that cynical, but how can anyone be over 25 and NOT be cynical?)

        1. bep

          Re: to answer the headline question

          Actually, 'raising awaremess' is the first requirement for behaviour change. For example, making people aware of what happens to all their garbage after the big truck takes it away is a key step in getting people to recycle what they can of said garbage.

          1. TeeCee Gold badge
            Meh

            Re: to answer the headline question

            You mean; "You put all your crap in different coloured boxes, we empty the boxes into a ship and send it to be recycledchucked into a big hole in the third world?".

            I think that if more people knew that, they'd probably be less inclined to bother with the coloured boxes.....

            1. Reginald Gerard

              @ TeeCee (recycle)

              Maybe it's that way in the UK but in Germany it is a mufti-million Euro business that makes a profit out of recycling. Just goes to show that if one is less negative about the concept, it can work when done properly.

              http://articles.latimes.com/2002/aug/11/world/fg-recycle11 albeit from 2002 but still relevant.

              or from 2004 with more detail on how it works and why it isn't in the UK....

              http://www.letsrecycle.com/news/special-reports/profits-warning-why-germanys-green-dot-is-selling-up

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: to answer the headline question

        ".....this is another example of the selfish theft from future generations"

        So is you inhaling.

        1. Beachrider

          Re: to answer the headline question

          Connecting Biofuels to CO2 reduction is tenuous, at best.

          In the USA (where we didn't sign the Kyoto or Copenhagen accords) it was seen as an immediate insulation against volatile world oil prices, more than anything else. USA gasoline is ~10% alcohol in most places and ~85% alcohol in 37 of 50 states. Where it supplants diesel, other non-CO2 pollution is controlled, too.

          I know that most readers here are European. Euro-Zeitgeist is that manmade CO2 is heavily involved in global warming. It just isn't nearly as prevalent in the USA. Aggressive ripostes harden established positions, not sway changeable opinions.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: to answer the headline question

            In most cases, the production of USA transport ethanol uses significantly MORE fossil fuel (in the farm equipment and added transportation) than it replaces.

            I haven't seen european stats but I wouldn't be suprised to see similar figures.

            That's in addion to the issues raised in the article.

      6. Nuke
        Flame

        @dave93 - Re: to answer the headline question

        Wrote :- "Raising awareness of all alternatives to unsustainable fossil fuels, by [running around waving your arms like a windmill while tossing money down the drain] is a 'Good Thing'".

        Reminds me of the scrap iron scam in Britain in WW2. The authorities went round cutting down iron railings and gates (some of them works of art, and you can still see the stubs if you look around inner cities today) supposedly to build tanks. But after the war they were found piled up in fields in Bedfordshire. The authorities later admitted that it was done to "raise awareness" that there was a war on.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: to answer the headline question

        No wind power wastes energy. In order for wind power get to the point to replace traditional power plants there would have to be so many the country side would nothing but wind mills. Biofuels production energy input is greater than what is produced and you think that energy input will come from wind power. Both wind and biofuels are dead ends.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: to answer the headline question

      Perhaps when wind turbines reach the end of development you can then sit on your fat lazy arse and nay say?

      In the mean time, man who wants to move forward, will continue to develop greener energy.

      We also need to be 100% sure that the chemicals added to fuels over the years have not caused any health damage, i.e auto- immune disorders, before claiming Bio is just as bad.

    3. DanDanDan
      WTF?

      Re: to answer the headline question

      The whole think 'stinks' of corruption to me!

  2. dogged

    Biodiesel in the UK

    Here's the thing I can't understand.

    If biodiesel is absolutely as green as you like, totally renewable and ecomentally awesome, how come the UK Government applies tax and excise duty at exact the same rate as normal (non-bio) diesel?

    And given the slightly lower power output of biodiesel, am I right in thinking that this makes it the single most heavily taxed form of fuel (on a per watt generated basis) in the entire world?

    So all these fuel taxes (which, if you recall, they used to tell us were for "green" reasons) are actually a massive shot in the foot because they're taxing the "good" fuels even more heavily than the "bad" fuels?

    Or does it just go to pay for bailing out bankers?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Biodiesel in the UK

      Ask the governments friends - dont blame biodiesel.

      Don't look at things in isolation though - think more of biodiesel as a by product of animal food. You can feed almost all of the rape plant that the biodiesel can come from to cattle and pigs etc. If grown here and fed to animals here its pretty close to a win win - you can drive your car on a couple of acres and eat bacon sarnies all day.

      But the same fuck ups apply to most things - US beef takes half of the US crop growing and a lot of the amazon jungle and yet produces not much more meat than the bison that wandered around a small area of the mid west without any human intervention.

      Blaming biodiesel for taxes and starvation is missing the real culprit - general human fuckwittery - by a long chalk.

  3. Richie 1

    Betteridge's Law says 'No'

    Agreed that biofuels are rubbish, but Europe has worse ideas, like Naziism.

    1. Paul Westerman
      Thumb Up

      Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

      From Betteridge to Godwin, well done

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

        Mornington Crescent

        1. Armando 123

          Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

          "Mornington Crescent"

          Wait, I though you were in nip ...

        2. Martin Budden Bronze badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

          "Mornington Crescent"

          Oh yeah? Well I just lost The Game. Which means so have you.

    2. Mick Sheppard
      Mushroom

      Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

      I invoke Godwin's Law and you forfeit your internetz.

      Reading the article at all you can see that the Europe in the headline is the EU.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

      Godwin!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

      There are probably more 'Nazi' supporters in the US than in Europe.

      Flying the Swastika is illegal in Germany and not illegal in the USA.

      1. FartingHippo
        Holmes

        Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

        I don't think any country should ban the swastika (even if you put aside its use in Hinduism and Buddhism).

        If people want to identify themselves as racist, antisemitic, cro-magnon morons, that's entirely up to them.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Betteridge's Law says 'No'

          I am reminded of comedian Bill Engvall's running gag of "Here's your sign". If racist, antisemitic, cro-magnon morons where properly labeled, you would know to avoid them straight off.

      2. Charles Manning

        Re:" There are probably more 'Nazi' supporters in the US than in Europe.

        Flying the Swastika is illegal in Germany and not illegal in the USA."

        Perhaps true for public demonstration of Nazi-ness, but it says nothing about what the people really think.

        I even knew a German Jew who was pro-Nazi as a philosophy. He thought that Hitler and his cronies were the best thing that ever happened to Germany as a nation (if you could put aside the ethnic-cleansing excesses).

        Just like there are many Russians who think the communist days were better, and South Africans (yes, even some black South Africans) who preferred the safety and stability of the Apartheid era, there are undoubtedly many Germans who still see Nazi-ism as a fine thing.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

    Probably not - the EU has come up with an awful lot of bad and expensive ideas over the years (anyone remember the Euro?)

    In this case, it's the classic problem - fundamentally sound principle, which manages to get completely turned around by the time the eurocrats, politicians and vested interests have finished with it.

    *IF* biofuels are produced by processing existing agricultural waste (and a lot of interesting research is being done on how the woody leftovers can be efficiently processed), by re-processing food waste(chip fat) or by growing interesting new crops on land that cannot be effectively used for other food production then it's an excellent idea - carbon neutral and using resources which would otherwise be wasted.

    Sadly some greedy sods decided that the best use of tasty and nourishing food crops is to make bio-diesel. Where do these people come from?

    1. Steve Crook

      Re: Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

      "by growing interesting new crops on land that cannot be effectively used for other food production"

      I think that was what the green groups had in mind in the first place. Trouble is, land that's not fit for growing food crops is generally not fit for growing crops of any sort at a commercial yield.

      The reason that they're using palm oil, maize and rape etc for bio stuff is that it's relatively easy to get from plant to fuel. The farming process is already industrialised and once harvested, the route to ethanol or whatever is relatively uncomplicated and again, has few technical hurdles to overcome.

      If you want to reprocess waste, generally someone has to sort it and do more work to get it into fuel, and usually at lower conversion efficiencies. This means that the processes would require even more subsidies to get anyone interested in investing it.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Actually...

        That is already done in part. Sludge coming out of sewage treatment plants is already used either agriculturally or burnt to generate heat and electricity.

        Also there are plants which process waste into methane. There's not much sorting involved, you just dump your waste into a reactor with a healthy community of bacteria, you stir it a bit and methane comes out. It may not be highly efficient, but it works, and you can still use the left overs as fertilisers.

        Of course you must never ever grow fertilised plants just for creating fuel, as you already need to put a lot of energy into making and transporting your fertiliser. So that's really a waste.

        One should also note, that the efficiency of plants converting sunlight to fuel is abysmally low. It's far less than a percent. If you just want energy you are by far better of using a simple solar panel.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: Actually...@Christian Berger

          "Sludge coming out of sewage treatment plants is already used either agriculturally or burnt to generate heat and electricity."

          Actually, due to daft EU limits on nitrates (no proper underpinning science) it is increasngly difficult to get rid of treated sewage sludge to agricultural land (and that assumes you've not got heavy metals contamination from industry or hospitals). The methane from sludge digestion is used for power generation at larger works, but the sludge itself will only burn autothermically at best, meaning there's no net heat output, and that's because although the sludge contains lignin and related fibres that will burn well, it also contains a lot of clay that absorbs heat but doesn't itself burn, and inhibits effcient burning of the fibres.

          The norm is to incinerate sludges using mains gas (possibly with some heat recovery if you use enough gas, although not really renewable), but the incineration is purely in order to reduce the waste to landfill to dry ash, which takes less space, is easier to transport, but crucially incurs lower landfill taxes. The most environmentally friendly disposal route for ttreated sludge is firstly direct to agricultutal land (and sod the EU nitrate limits), followed by dumping at sea (illegal under EU law, of course).

          I have seen tech proposals to separate the lignin from sewage sludges, the concept is proven at pilot plant level, and that gives a product very similar to processed wood pellets. It is a very compelling offer because it gives you a saleable biofuel and it reduces the load on the sewage treatment works, but the technical conservatism of the industries involved, DECC's magical ability to over-complicate everything, and a lack of drive amongst those involved other than the current IP holders seem to be leaving it beached.

        2. Cucumber C Face
          Coat

          Re: the efficiency of plants converting sunlight to fuel is abysmally low

          Hmm... efficiency not the whole story.

          When solar panels have renewably sustained 99.9999999% of life on Earth (excluding hydrothermal vents) for a billion or so years AND while doing so laid down as much fossil fuel - get back to us.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

      Now there's an interesting question. I think we have to say no. I think the current clusterfuck that is the Euro has to win this one hands down. It's the policy that has the greatest chance of destroying the EU, and the economies of every member.

      But then we have to look at the horrible consequences for third world economies and agriculture of the Common Agriculture Policy. That one's a real doozy. We increase poverty within the EU, by redistributing cash from poor consumers (and rich ones too, to be fair), to relatively rich farmers. Of course there are also some really poor farmers who get help too, but sadly the policy gives most of its cash to the rich ones. To make this work we also slap import tariffs onto poor developing world farmers, so they can't export to us in an area they can compete in. All the while we also increase inefficiency in our own farming. And at one point we were even paying one lot of farmers to over-produce subsidised crops, then paying a bunch of bureaucrats to either store or destroy the surplus. Biofuels isn't working, but I think CAP beats it even in the area of agriculture.

      Oh, and I forgot the Common Fisheries Policy. Which even when it sees the need to reduce catastrophic over-fishing, to save the fish stocks that are being systematically destroyed, does it in such a way that it still kills massive numbers of fish that decimate the stocks, but now throws them back, so we can't even eat them as we destroy them. That's probably slightly madder than biofuels too.

      The Financial Transactions Tax might come in there too. Although it's hard to know unless they actually do it. But the Commission's own figures say that the 11 countries who try it are expecting to raise a total of €38 billion in tax per year. But it's expected to cost 0.1 - 0.2% GDP growth per year, which will work out to several hundred billion Euro per year. Also, while the money you raise is an annual amount. If you lose a percentage of GDP growth every year, you get compound effects, so each year you get smaller growth from a total smaller than it would otherwise have been. Also they may destroy the market in their own government debt, in the middle of a crisis in confidence in Eurozone government debt. Oh and it may also break the Repo market, i.e. interbank lending, during a crisis in confidence in Eurozone banks. So it's possible it could bring down the Euro, even if they do enough to otherwise save it.

    3. Youngdog

      Re: Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

      Living in SEA I can tell you that Palm Oil is an absolute blight in this region. It has caused environmental damage, endangered species and displaced thousands who have lived in regions it is grown in. Now driving through Malaysia (although as dangerous as ever) is just a dull voyage through hundreds of square miles of the stuff. It isn't even healthy enough to put in food!

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

      "*IF* biofuels are produced by processing existing agricultural waste (and a lot of interesting research is being done on how the woody leftovers can be efficiently processed), by re-processing food waste(chip fat) or by growing interesting new crops on land that cannot be effectively used for other food production then it's an excellent idea - carbon neutral and using resources which would otherwise be wasted."

      It's only an excellent idea if the fuel produced is significantly more than the fuel used to produce it.

      Otherwise you're far better off putting that "waste biomass" back into the ground, as crop fertilizer. Stripping of arable land nutrients is a fast way of making a dust bowl.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Famine-causing?

    No, no!

    It can't be. Biofuels are GOOD! The MUST be GOOD!

    It must be EVIL SPECULATORS! That's it. The speculators did it. Kill the poor from Wall Street. Yeah. They are trading in FUTURES. That must be BAD.

  6. Nigel Brown
    Flame

    Owners of classic cars and motorcycles have been concerned about this for some time, especially the move to 10% ethanol as it has a corrosive effect on many components in the fuel system.

    The Department for Transport commissioned an independent report in to the effects of E10 on existing vehicles, the report

    http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/qinetiq-10-02471-assessing-fuel-system-compatability-with-bio-ethanol-and-risk-of-carburettor-icing/bioethanolstudyreport.pdf

    recommended the following:

    * Vehicles ten years old or older, carburettored vehicles (including powered two wheelers) and first generation direct injection spark ignition vehicles should not be fuelled on E10 unless the manufacturer can state the vehicles are compatible with E10.

    * The automotive industry should produce a comprehensive list of vehicles compatible with E10. While it is acknowledged that some lists do already exist if in doubt the vehicle operator should seek clarification from the vehicle manufacturer.

    * E5 should not be phased out in 2013, its widespread availability should continue for the foreseeable future.

    * Consideration should be given to maintaining a specification for E0 fuel for historic and vintage vehicles.

    I own a 1994 Kawasaki motorcycle, Kawasaki are still considering the effects and currently do not recommend using E10. I am now looking at the distinct possibility that this bike is going to become worthless or impractical to use due to the problems of finding E5 out in the sticks where I live.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I own a 1980s Kawasaki and I'm actually looking forward to fitting an electric motor and enjoying the freedom of motorcycling more so, with a quieter engine, rollercoster exhilaration these modded vehicles offer and possibly free charge cycles from the sun.

      1. All names Taken
        Paris Hilton

        6f or 6n? That is the question.

        Whether it is nobler to be owner and user of a fast fairing job or should one aim for the rugged, raw, nakedness of a naked bike?

        Is the struggle of nakedness in this wind torn land - and piloting rider were too many peas beaned or improbable tensing of one and all sphincters - or manage airflow with a bit more smoothness as the revolutions per minute increase gastronomically?

        (For the uninitiated:

        Kawasaki ER 6f

        Kawasaki ER 6n

        the f is usually taken for fairing and n for naked)

    2. Matthew 3

      Worries me too

      When lead was removed from petrol there was supposed to be some kind of similar proviso for older engines which couldn't cope with unleaded fuel. Using the availability of that as an indicator I think I can see what will happen here too.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Worries me too

        Moving to unleaded fuel meant fitting hardened valves/valve seats in older vehicles or the engines would clap out.

        Moving to E10 is likely to result in vehicle fires. It's hell on rubber components.

        Biodiesel users face the same issue but diesel tends not to burn at room temperature unless given a lot of provokation.

      2. Gavin King

        Re: Worries me too

        At least with unleaded fuel you could add a lead substitute to the fuel: it is a bit harder to remove the ethanol from the alcoholic ones.

        I'm not sure what was in the substitute, come to think of it: surely it wasn't lead, but it had to be quite similar. I remember the A35 was quite happy to run with it.

        Not knowing much about these things, I wonder if it would be possible to use something to precipitate out the ethanol without affecting the rest of the fuel, and whether it would be affordable and practical to do so.

  7. Josco
    Flame

    Who voted these buffoons in?

    It 'wasn't me.

    Europe (including the UK) must have the worst politicians ever. Not one of them exists in the real world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

      Vote UKIP!

      1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

        UKIP: The UK has her own Internet Protocol party? Excellent. Where do they stand on TCP?

        ( Before anyone responds in earnest, I did contemplate a joke-tag, but thought better of it. )

        1. BeerTokens

          Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

          Their manifesto states 'TCP should be used before dressing the wound.'

          I too considered a joke icon but then I think I may be pushing my luck a bit with this one!

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Maharg
        Joke

        Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

        I agree VOTE UKIP!

      4. TeeCee Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

        That might help, depending on how the EU have pidgeonholed UKIP.

        As far as I can make out, the only thing that causes the hand-wringing, bien pensant lefties of the EU to get their knickers in a knot is when there's a rise in votes for the extreme right.

        I'm not sure that UKIP is considered quite rabidly fascist enough to get them to take notice and thus not worth a protest vote.

    2. red death

      Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

      If you are of voting age then we all did, through European Parliament elections and national elections.

      1. tony
        Happy

        Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

        Most of the elected are drawn from party lists and the general public, usually, don't get a say in the ordering of those lists.

        The system is rigged so party politicians always win.

        1. red death

          Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

          @tony

          How is that much different to a constituency association selecting a candidate? "Favoured" candidates get parachuted into safe seats just like they end up higher in the party lists.

    3. Nasty Nick

      Re: Who voted these buffoons in?

      Our politicos in UK and EU countries may often be very bad, but there is plenty of competition from the rest of the world for the title of "Worst".

      Anyone care to start the list? Preferably nominations from nominee country nationals - residents can be excused, as if found out, in the worst places they'll get executed/jailed/tortured for dissing the homeland!.

  8. Ben Rose
    Megaphone

    Another carbon reduction failure

    When will the powers that be realise that most of these CO2 reduction schemes are just nonsense?

    There are two simple ways to reduce CO2 emissions:

    1) Use less energy, like turning stuff off when we don't need it. People still don't do this enough, too much water in the kettle etc.

    2) Produce electricity more cleanly - Pretty much every process uses electricity. We're looking at around 600g of CO2 for every kWh of electricity we generate right now. This electricity fuels electric cars but is also used to generate hydrogen for fuel cells and refine oil for petrol/diesel. If we reduce the carbon footprint of electricity generation, every form of transport gets cleaner - either directly, for electric cars and trains, or indirectly for petrol/diesel cars, trucks and even aeroplanes.

    It's been demonstrated over again that renewables like solar PV and wind turbines help reduce this but won't make a dent on emissions from electricity generation for decades. The only realistic solution is nuclear and, with a new power station taking 15-20 years to come on-line, we need to get this done sooner rather than later.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Matthew 3

        Re: Another carbon reduction failure

        "out of single-occupancy motor vehicles and onto bikes, public transport, and car-pooling."

        Living in a rural area with a long commute, none of those work for me. What we need are employers who accept that encouraging working from home is a sensible idea. It would reduce congestion, reduce carbon emissions, saving time and energy. But the mindset that you're somehow skiving is what needs to go.

        1. Ben Rose
          Megaphone

          @Matthew 3 - Re: Another carbon reduction failure

          In reality, the main problem here is that you chose to take a job that is based where you do not live.

          Working should be seen as a workaround, not a solution, for this.

          Unfortunately, running a car has become so cheap that people feel inclined to commute ridiculous distances each way. People used to relocate and employers used to offer allowances for it. Prospective employers even used to refund travel expenses for interviews.

          There is no need for anybody to live in a rural area and also have a long commute, alternative options are available.

          1. FutureShock999

            Re: @Matthew 3 - Another carbon reduction failure

            Locating near your job only works well when one member of the household works. If you and your wife both work, GOOD LUCK finding jobs with futures for both of you (i.e., not working in fast food) that just happen to be located nearby. And with the rise of contract employment, the job you have now is less and less likely to be the job you have in 12 months. Makes that very difficult, especially if you have children that you don't want to pull out of schools every 12 months. The new work paradigms seem to stipulate that commuting will be in many people's cards for the long term...

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Another carbon reduction failure

        And cycling is good for your health. As long as you have a cycle path - it's not so healthy when some ass wipe in a car smashes into you. I tried commuting by bike a couple of years ago. 11 miles to and from the office mostly on country lanes. It wasn't that difficult and I'd got it down to 40 minutes after a couple of months. Unfortunately I had a couple of close calls on the main roads so packed it in.

        I'm still thinking of trying again because even with my efficient Jazz it still costs over £3 a day. If I switched completely (unlikely given weather and lack of light during the winter) I'd save £700 a year.

    2. red death

      Re: Another carbon reduction failure

      IIRC DECC reckon the average UK CO2 emissions per kWh are about 450g, but that aside you are right with your general assertion.

      The flaw is that even reducing power generation emissions doesn't solve the total emissions given transport accounts for a substantial portion of total CO2 emissions.

      1. Ben Rose
        Megaphone

        Re: Another carbon reduction failure

        "IIRC DECC reckon the average UK CO2 emissions per kWh are about 450g, but that aside you are right with your general assertion."

        Gotta love averages, they also vary with source. The number also varies depending what you include. For example, we buy in a LOT of electricity from the French who have excess generation from their nukes. This makes our grid cleaner but isn't really our electricity. The average CO2 emissions for electricity only produced on UK soil is considerably higher.

        In real terms, all of our low carbon electricity is already allocated to customers. if you then turn on a kettle, or plug-in an electric car, the only place for that extra energy to come from is coal/gas. This has a considerably higher than average CO2 footprint.

        "The flaw is that even reducing power generation emissions doesn't solve the total emissions given transport accounts for a substantial portion of total CO2 emissions."

        Reducing grid emissions will make alternative lower carbon methods of transport more viable and attractive. I'm rather eco-conscious but wouldn't touch an electric car with a barge pole right now.

        1. red death

          Re: Another carbon reduction failure

          "Gotta love averages, they also vary with source."

          True! It is however DECC's job to at least monitor such stats (doesn't make them any more trustworthy!).

          I'm not sure that is true about UK produced electricity. Interconnector capacity is limited and is only about 3600MW. According to a recent Parliamentary briefing that is upto around 5% of the UK's electricity supply: www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn04046.pdf

          Base load power generation is normally nuclear and coal. "Extra" peak demand is far more likely to be gas (or pumped storage). Coal isn't responsive enough for peak demand.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. red death

              Re: @red death Another carbon reduction failure

              Actually I don't think it is that useful as it is trying to do too much - the CO2 figures are more like an attempt at a lifecycle analysis rather than emissions.

              I understand why they have done that, but it means (as they admit in the yellow box) that their figures are always going to be out of kilter with most others as they are trying to calculate something different.

              The CO2 emissions for obtaining fuel will vary wildly even if comparing the same fuel eg coal from UK vs Brazil or oil/gas from N Sea vs Saudi Arabia etc.

              You can't just ignore pumped storage as it suits you! It is actually really useful to manage the grid. Yes, it uses power but typically from low use periods so it is using base load which would otherwise go to waste.

          2. Ben Rose
            Megaphone

            Re: Another carbon reduction failure

            I have been monitoring this page on an almost daily basis for years now:

            http://owningelectriccar.com/national-grid-electric.html

            If you ignore the electric car and comparison nonsense around it, the grid data is actually quite useful.

            I've never seen the grid electric fall below 500g CO2/kWh and it is regularly above the 600g barrier - especially in the winter months when electric lights, heating etc. are used more frequently.

            Obviously there are times of day, like in the early hours, where demand may be low and this may drag overall averages down and make the numbers look good. In real terms though, a mean average doesn't tell the whole picture. A modal average would probably be more realistic - e.g. for most hours of the day, the CO2 emissions are considerably higher than average.

            Essentially, for people who live normal hours (e.g. not night shift workers) there is a large CO2 footprint whenever you plug in a device - larger than the DECC figures may lead you to believe. If you used that appliance in the early hours of the morning it would help a lot, but you can't really have that post-dinner coffee at 3am.

            Incidentally, I try to ignore pumped hydro storage as it requires electricity to get it there which has its own CO2 footprint.

  9. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Stupid idea yes, but by no means the most stupidest

    Just look at all those "improved" copyright laws which make things illegal like ripping the DVDs you bought, criminalizing millions of customers.

    Then there's "data retention" which forces phone companies to keep records of who phoned with whom when and where, putting everybody on watch, except for criminals who simply nicked a mobile phone and threw it away after using it.

    Unlike those ideas, you actually need to think a bit to find out the flaws of biofuels. You could even make the point that it's a good use for the overproduction we have in Europe. Otherwise we ship our waste food to other countries at low cost where they compete with local producers often placing them out of business since we are a _lot_ cheaper. For that 10% rule you would have even had to use mathematics which is probably unknown to most politicians in the EU.

    So sure it's a bad idea, but there were a lot more ideas where the stupidity was way more obvious.

  10. Magnus_Pym

    Just wondering.

    What do you have to do to become a think tank? Is there some kind of national register or professional qualification? Can you be thrown out of the think tank guild for thinking the wrong things? or is it, as I suspect, a self bestowed title for people who think they know better than everyone else.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Just wondering.

      Anyone can set up their own thinktank. So yes, it's a self-bestowed title. However there are definitely 'elite' ones that people actually listen to. You can get adopted by a political party, or a particular politician. New Labour had it's favourites, for example.

      Or you can just be consistently interesting for years, like Chatham House, and build up a decent international reputation.

  11. Rich 2
    Mushroom

    Environment? Pah!

    Like pretty much all "lets save the environment" ideas, the biofuel thing has very little to do with "saving the environment" and much more to do with making money. Just like "carbon trading" (an absurd idea that Dr. Strangelove would have been proud of), and taxing ...well ...pretty much anything you can think off that might even be vaguely to do with pollution.

    I mean, why bother actually DOING anything about poisoning the planet we live on when we can do bugger-all about it instead, and make some more of that completely artificial concept called "money" into the bargain? Despair in human nature? God, I do; we deserve to die-out!

  12. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Joke

    Biofuels do have a long history

    T34 Tanks are said to have run on vodka or bootleg drink on occasion.

    A waste of good drink, perhaps, but it may have prevented blindness.

    (it cannot have been scumble, as that would have eaten its way through the metal of the engine)

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Biofuels do have a long history

      No need for joke alert - I remember (some years ago) chatting to some Army bods who were showing us the (at the time) new Chieftain tank, who said that it had been developed to run on just about anything that could be vaporised into something combustible - diesel, petrol, ethanol whatever is available. And just for fun they took an engine they'd been using for testing and filled it with peanut butter, and it actually managed to turn over! Not recommended for regular use though. And I think they used to do about 2 gallons to the mile...

      1. Gavin King
        Coat

        Re: Biofuels do have a long history

        Two gallons of peanut butter per mile? That's not too bad, although I imagine it would be more efficient to feed the soldiers and have them drag the tank instead.

  13. Mad Mike

    Beauracrats

    It's been known for years. The busy bodies and interfering people at Brussels (and most other big 'political' centres) just make things worse. All these politicians just pander to their 'mates', who normally become their mates through supplying money in one form or another. Creating and funding pressure groups can never be part of any sensible political organisation, especially when they're pressuring the body that funds them. Subverts both the political body AND the pressure group itself.

    I've got nothing against being environmentally responsible and doing what we can within the bounds of a) it must work and genuinely be environmentally friendly and b) it mustn't bankrupt people. This initiative, amongst many, seems to fail at both.

    The stupid thing is, all these nonsense initiatives actually give environmental initiatives a bad name. They switch people off to anything done in the name of the environment. In energy, installing free insulation in houses is a good, cheap way of making a difference, both for the people and the environment through reducing energy loss and therefore usage. Paying people stupid subsidies to put solar PV and wind generation etc. on their houses is effectively just giving people money. It does bugger all for the environment and is so cost inefficient it defies belief.

    We desperately need to get some sense into the environmental discussion, but there are now so many vested interests on all sides, this just isn't likely to happen.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ethanol also rots fuel tanks

    We've just had to shell out 400 quid to replace the epoxy fuel tank on our microlight aircraft because the ethanol in biofuel shagged it. Apparently this is also a problem with fuel tanks in boats.

    Not that our overlords in Brussels care - they are happy in their well paid jobs, making unwanted regulations and "saving the planet".

    Bring on the tumbrels, thats wot I say...

  15. Steve Crook

    Not quite...

    But it's up there, floating with some others I can think of.

    It's particularly interesting to see the volte face performed by green groups as this train crash has occurred. I'm sure they'd argue that the policy implementation was not what they wanted and outside their control. Well, welcome to the world of unintended consequences.

    What's most irritating is that it's not stopped them from proposing other equally doubtful policy ideas, all with the best possible intentions of course, but flawed none the less. Still, it's easy to propose policy, when you have no responsibility for delivering it and can pretend it was never your idea when the hit hits the fan.

  16. Shasta McNasty
    WTF?

    Really?

    In the long term, the EU should encourage electric cars, the authors suggest,

    Would they be charged by the energy that we're short of now and have no reasonable plan to rectify?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Literally the previous paragraph to that which you quoted...

      "The inefficiency of the internal combustion engine (ICE) means scarce biomass can be used more efficiently elsewhere,"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      I thought Fracking was the big solution? And isn't nuclear on the way?

      Also to reduce the demand, our government is making sure the un-employed can't afford to use as much electricity!

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Really?

        "And isn't nuclear on the way?"

        Not in the UK, where EdF has realised that "fear of the light going out on their watch" means that politicians can be offered take-it-or-leave-it contracts with 40-years price guarantees waaaay in excess of any likely market rate. The last I heard, Mr Osborne has opted to "leave it" but that only means we'll have no nuclear power.

        Right now, your best bet is probably that ITER will prove to be expectedly simple and effective. (So don't hold your breath then.)

  17. Adze

    Biofuels are an excellent idea...

    ...it's the implementation, legislation and bu'euro'cratic bullshit that government injects into good ideas which is the bad idea.

  18. Richard Wharram
    Unhappy

    Unsurprising

    Shitty idea.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amen to that. While people starve all over planet earth, europeans are busy worrying about the unproven CO2 armageddon, and therefore burning food.

    Humanity is sick. =(

  20. Whatithink

    Yeah right

    Everything about this is bollocks. It's the US that's gone massively for biofuels. They don;'t cause anyone to 'starve'. They've just dealt with the US surplus of maize.

    Ignore Chatham House. They're only of any interest if you believe the world needs English public schoolboys to tell it how to run everything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah right

      The US is a bit bigger in terms of land area. Plus many of the population are, ahem, not in any danger of starving.

    2. juice Silver badge

      Re: Yeah right

      " It's the US that's gone massively for biofuels. They don;'t cause anyone to 'starve'. They've just dealt with the US surplus of maize."

      Mmm. That's why there were riots in Mexico due to the rise in maize prices... which was due in part to crops being diverted for biofuel:

      http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a0aa9ef0-d618-11df-81f0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2QiKG27ch

      And don't forget the upcoming pig-apocalpyse, as herds are thinned out due to rising feed prices:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/25/pork-bacon-shortage-unavoidable-drought

      In both of the above, there's lots of other factors, both human (e.g. speculators) and natural (e.g. droughts). And there's a lot that could be done to address wastage in other areas, both at the point of production and consumption. But fundamentally, using maize to produce biofuels means that there's less maize for other things...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Yeah right

      Actually, U.S. exports of corn products, specifically to Mexico, have falled due to the conversion of land from food-grade corn to fuel-grade corn and the price of food south of the border has risen accordingly.

      Sucks to be poor and Mexican.

      But hey, we're saving the planet and there is no escape.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    Bloody obvious

    to all but the hippest of bunny huggers...

    We have millions and millions in adject poverty starving, but why let 1000s of tonnes of grain go to feeding them when it can power MEP's cars!!!!!!

    Have to get our (MEP's) priorities in order and the suffering of millions thousands of miles away doesnt concern brussels at all.....

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Bloody obvious

      " adject poverty"

      Someone who describes being poor?

      Abject poverty.

  22. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  23. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Don't forget biomass

    It's a moneypit of even greater proportions.

    The EU's policy on biofuels is slightly less insane than the US one as it is %. The corn lobby in America is already agitating for 15 % ethanol in fuel to make up the anticipated shortfall due to more efficient cars.

    That said, the problems with the policy in the EU have been known for a while and debate is ongoing on how to rectify them. Of course, once you've created a subsidised industry there is a lot of resistance to overcome to dismantle it but that is what politics is about. Personally, I'm pretty certain that both biofuels and biomass have important roles to play in Europe's future energy policy.

  24. Zuagroasta
    Trollface

    Loving it

    So glad I'm over 40, and won't live to see how the Luddites throw us into a second Dark Ages...

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Loving it

      Ditto, but making certain my offspring have the essential skills to survive it.

      Yep he's 7 and can build a fire without matches, shoot a bow, cook over a fire, find food and water, ....

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: "So glad I'm over 40, and won't live..."

      Planning on dying young, are we? Coz the Luddites have us on a pretty steep trajectory. 30 more years of this and there won't be any major infrastructure left. Your power plants have a finite lifespan and aren't being replaced. Any wealth that might be fed into repairs (let alone growth) is being diverted up the noses of special interest groups or into white elephant projects that showcase some exciting new technology that (it turns out) isn't quite ready for prime-time yet and won't be cost-effective even when it is.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's probably a strategic issue, to reduce dependency on fossil fuels imports. Since we're not building nuclear power plants anymore, that's the only way at the moment to achieve some independence :(.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We won't be achieving independence though. We'll probably end up importing the crops from Russia/Ukraine.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We're not??

      I didn't get that memo? does that mean I have to dismantle my garage nuke?

  26. RonWheeler

    Famine?

    We're blaming the wrong thing for the problem. The real issue is overpopulation. We've got 7 billion people now and can barely feed them. We're so past the point of being able to sustain the human race ina sustainable way it isn't funny.

    Less people would make all osrts of renewables work as a viable proposition, but apparently the right to spew your offspring over the planet is beyond question...

    1. MrXavia
      Coat

      Soylent Green

      The post is required, and must contain letters.

    2. John Sanders
      Trollface

      Re: Famine?

      YES, Let's kill everybody because we have useless politicians and people who doesn't understand a thing about resources.

      1. RonWheeler
        Thumb Down

        Re: Famine?

        Beat that strawman, yeah!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just that

    The ethanol content can destroy your vehicle (attacking tanks, lines, filters etc). So if driving an older vehicle (pre-2000) or a classic, be very careful about what you put in your tank. If in any doubt, contact the manufacturer and ask.

  28. Thomas Gray

    Bioethanol from crops?

    I'm sure I read on The Register somewhere that the majority of European bioethanol fuel was made by fermenting crop waste (stalks of maize, for example) and off-cut wood, rather than from 'virgin' crops.

    Must have been mistaken.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Windows

      Re: Bioethanol from crops?

      If you use wood,cellulose etc then you get methanol, not ethanol, which is alchohol basically. Don't know if that makes any difference as fuel but methanol is a tad more toxic. Its what bootleggers used to cut with ethanol back in the days of prohibition and is the cause of the myth that moonshine makes you blind...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bioethanol from crops?

        I thought it was the contaminants from the old radiators and A/C tubing.

  29. 96percentchimp

    Chatham House independent?

    Chatham House isn't quite the independent think tank it claims to be, and has been criticised both for its cosy links to the energy industry and to some of the world's less pleasant governments: http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/12/08/chatham-houses-independent-expert-is-lobbyist/

    First generation biofuels produced from food crops are a dead-end (and were abused to subsidise American farming), although second and third-gen biofuels produced from waste and cultured biomass have great potential - but I wouldn't expect anything from Mr Orlowski to be a fair appraisal of renewables technology.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Chatham House independent?

      That story about Chatham House is pretty thin. They've got a pretty decent reputation, and I don't think that does anything to particularly undermine it. And once you chuck in the lazy generalisation of 'have been criticised for links to the energy industry', something your link doesn't actually back up in any meaningful way, I begin to suspect you're playing the man and not the ball.

      Biofuel might be a brilliant idea. Certainly using waste products makes sense. But once you're using food crops, which consume massive amounts of energy to farm and even more to convert, then you're on to a losing game. Particularly given the knock-on effect this has on the world food market. Andrew Orlowski isn't knocking this because he's some evil agent acting for the evil fuel evil evil evil evil evil industry lobby evil conglomerates evil evil evil. Well he might be (who knows?), but in this case he's knocking it because it's a shit idea.

  30. G4Z
    Thumb Up

    How about they used this instead of oil seed rape?

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_trent_energy_from_floating_algae_pods.html

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: How about they used this instead of oil seed rape?

      This may just work. You could probably even build a "desert" version of it. :)

  31. Rugster

    Algae

    There seems to be a lot of progress in producing algae that will grow on non farming land and water, has a few day harvest and actually reduces CO2.

    I don't know a lot about this, but it looks promising as the output seems to be higher as well.

    I think that done properly, this could be the answer to a lot of our future fuel needs.

  32. John Sanders
    Facepalm

    Oh surprise...

    "Is costing Europeans a fortune and isn't even environmentally friendly"

    Like everything the environmentalists propose, I have a suggestion for all the pseudo green-comunist types out there, when time comes for the next green scam:

    Potatoes, with potatoes one can light a light bulb, everyone knows this. So lets sell to the public this idea of setting up potato-based power plants. Potatoes are a green renewable energy source: All we need to do is link lots of potatoes with wires in an industrial scale and job done, lets cash the government subsidies.

    It is the energy companies and the oil barons who do not want this to happen.

  33. Dr_N Silver badge

    Yup: Bio-engineered, ethanol producing algae

    As seen on Horizon's "Tomorrow's World" recently.

    In the mean time. I'll stick with 98 Unleaded for my car.

    Better for the environment, and cheaper than the E85 stuff in the long term

    in terms of car maintenance and fuel consumption.

  34. Gordan

    Waste Oil, Not Fresh

    The fundamental flaw in the way the biofuels directive is being implemented is in the fact that fresh vegetable oil is turned straight into biodiesel. This is, quite frankly, retarded. A far more sensible way to do this is to ONLY use waste vegetable oil. That way you are recycling and getting a useful benefit from something that has already been used up for it's original purpose and you are thus reaping an environmentally free secondary benefit.

  35. Magnus_Pym

    Easy to blame Brussels...

    ...but it amazes me that the UKIP types think our own home grown Westminister politicians and bureaucrats are any less lazy/wasteful/stupid than the European ones and that taking away the small level of oversight that the EU gives us will make them better.

    If you want to end wasteful politicking by bureaucrats who know little and care less about the lives of the local population join in the movement to break away the original English kingdom. Anglo-Saxons ? Sod the Angles and their Danish overlords. Saxon home rule! - FREEDOM FOR MERCIA!

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Easy to blame Brussels...

      Thats fine as long as you pay tribute to the kingdom of Northumbria.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Easy to blame Brussels...

      Yes, indeed, it will always be, but would the combined number of byrocrats in European countries be any better.

      This article was about bio fuels, and I have nothing against it as long as no dedicated fields are used but only waste. Still I think we should continue with developing nuclear power as there are great potential in that field. Developing sun power is OK with me too. In fact there are many ways to get energy, from the ground from the air, but for large scale use I cannot see any better alternative than nuclear.

  36. Graham Marsden
    Coat

    "more efficient cars which use turbo boost"

    You mean like the Knight Industries Two Thousand?

  37. Andy Watt
    Thumb Up

    Big thumbs up to AO for this piece.

    If you step back from the ludicrous oil-burning machinery for a second and take a look, the folly of dedicating vast fields to producing fuel for vehicles, etc becomes seriously obvious.

    However, do we have any useful replacement for heavy fuel oil for tankers yet? We are screwed if we go back to wind powered clippers, unless we do some serious redesign to improve their speed. The global economy shrinking? Wait until the oil runs out.

  38. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  39. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Hmm

    A register article on the environment I agree with - must be the end of days.

    Biodiesal from used cooking oil isn't too bad I suspect, as it's already a waste product. However ethanol from crops is a shit idea, and there are plenty of environmentally-minded folk that know this. I know nuanced thinking is beyond most of the head-in-the-sand types, but for those that can manage shades other than black and white, it's pretty obvious that ethanol, at least in the US, has nothing to do with sustainable energy and everything to do with lobbying.

    But the article doesn't cover whose behind it in Europe. In the US it's the corn lobby, but we don't grow that much here. Any idea which crops will be used?

  40. Panicnow

    Right target Wrong headline

    Is the EU's policy on bio-fuels sh*tty YES.

    Are Bio-fuels bad? Not all!

    Using crop residues for fuel is a GOOD idea. Straw in particular has half the calorific value of coal by weight.

    On world markets Feed Wheat sells at £190 tonne and Coal costs £250 for the same number of Calories.

    go figure ...

    Vote UKIP

  41. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
    Boffin

    Biodiesel: be careful!

    What this article doesn't make clear is that biodiesel already has by law to be blended in with normal diesel oil, and the proportion of biodiesel will increase to 5%. We know what will happen then because most supermarket diesel already has much higher proportions of cheap biodiesel in it already, which the supermarket suppliers source and use in the cheapest way possible.

    This is why, if you use supermarket diesel regularly, you'll occasionally get a bad batch. I had this problem with my car last year; it would smoke and run roughly in the mornings after being left overnight, but this problem didn't occur at any other time. I thought it was down to a failed glowplug, or another cryptic engine fault and took the car to a main dealer. After working through the usual set of rip-off charges (£60 just to look at the car? £40 to check the computer? Kerching!) they concluded that there was no mechanical fault, and handed me a huge bill and a bottle of diesel detergent.

    The detergent emulsified any remaining water in the diesel, and killed out the remaining bacterial infestation in the diesel; the problem disappeared in a few days. Since then I have avoided supermarket diesel like the plague it sometimes is.

    Interestingly about that time last year, Miller's Oils brought out a new range of diesel additives aimed at commercial hauliers; these included a bacteriostatic additive to prevent bacterial growth in stored fuel, and a bacteriacidal product to kill out existing infections. The supermarkets basically do not care about occasional bad, bacterially-contaminated batches of diesel and will not care until weight of complaints and bad publicity hits their sales. In the mean time until legislation forces antibacterial additives to be used, stay away from supermarket fuels.

    1. Ben Rose
      Megaphone

      bad batch of fuel?

      Sounds more to me like the DPF regeneration cycle taking place. Do you do lots of short journeys?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Biodiesel: be careful!

      Are you seriously telling me that your diesel fuel had in infection?

  42. Perpetual Cyclist
    Stop

    I'm a bearded vegetarian cycling greenie...

    ...and I have been saying that industrial scale biofuels are a disasterous idea for a decade.

    Apart from the eoccide of cutting down rainforests to plant oil palms or the vast quantities of primae agricultural land that is used for corn ethanol or rapeseed biodiesel - both of which need huge amounts of natural-gas based fertiliser etc. to grow, driving up the price of food in many countries, attempt to supliment the global oil supply with biofuels is bound to fail the thermodynamic test.

    The global oil supply has peaked, global population continues to grow at 90M a year, and we are very close to the global limits to economic and population growth. There is no more land, fresh water or cheap high density protable fossil fuel to exploit. We are the generation of yeast on the petri-dish who suddenly notice that doubling consumption of resources every 20 years is not such a good strategy when the dish is 70% full of yeast.

    I think there have been studies that show that biofuels growth for use in agricultural machinary are marginally more efficient than using the same land to feed workhorses to do the same work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm a bearded vegetarian cycling greenie...

      Not quite true. The Sahara and other large deserts are mostly vacant of human habitation (for good reason,) so all we need to do is desalinate and pump seawater inland to make them habitalble.

  43. A J Stiles

    Sound idea, lousy implementation

    Most food crops have inedible parts that would have been ideal for making biofuel, because there's not much else you can do with them. There's also a lot of animal fat going to waste (while we import palm oil and kill orang-utans).

    Anyway, we have to get the implementation right. Sooner or later, non-renewable energy is going to be exhausted; and thanks to various vested interests, we probably won't find out about it until it's too late.

  44. heyrick Silver badge
    FAIL

    Bio fuel can kiss my. ....

    When my dinky little three cylinder C1 struggles up moderate inclines when tanked up with 95 octane 10% ethanol, you KNOW something is seriously wrong. A C1 is hardly a performance car. It runs on 98 octane, as most of the 95 around here is E10. Frankly, I would not even use that crap in my mower.

  45. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    It depends

    If people want to put time, energy and resource into biofuels well that is fine.

    If they want to believe that doing the above makes for savings and efficiencies well that is fine too.

    In either case good, clear and precise evidence is required?

  46. The Grump
    Mushroom

    Let's call them what they are - Communists.

    You know their old saw by heart by now: "It's not your (fuel, air, water, etc) or my (fuel, air, water, etc), it belongs to ALL of us (which means the government decides who gets what). All the Commies have fled to organizations like Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists, AARP, or any organization that espouses more government control. If you don't want to become a slave to your own goverment after it turns Communist, I suggest you fight these pinko Commies tooth and nail. Or live as a slave to the government. Your choice, but choose wisely - your children will have to live with the consequences of your action (or inaction).

    Choose freedom - tell these GW freaks to get stuffed.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Re: Let's call them what they are - Communists.

      "your children will have to live with the consequences of your action (or inaction)." or to put it another way.

      Our children will die of the consequences of your action (or inaction).

  47. James 36
    WTF?

    stuff and things

    so the EU voted through something they knew was crap and wouldn't achieve the stated aims,

    I just don't get that

    I believe politicians are untrustworthy at best but that really does just takse the piss,

  48. Jim O'Reilly
    Pint

    And after all that smoke, there isn't any AGW!

    This is probably the most egregious example of government wasting money to save us from a problem that doesn't exist.

    Of course, lobbying (bribes) are rampant, especially if the EU is funding the lobbying (bribes) effort! This sounds like a self perpetuating error, so the waste may continue.

  49. Toastan Buttar

    Good back-of-the-envelope calculation here...

    How much land mass would renewables need to power a nation like the UK?

    http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mackay_a_reality_check_on_renewables.html

  50. ecofeco Silver badge
    WTF?

    Famine Causing=LIE

    What bollocks. Utter propaganda sheep poop.

    There has consistently been enough food to feed everyone in the world since the middle of the last century.

    Distribution has been the only problem to that. Politics is the cause of THAT.

    Biofuels are a great STRATEGIC DEFENSE idea and are now proven to be able to be made on the industrial scale, but fail as an everyday commercial practicality.

  51. Dr_N Silver badge

    Next up...

    Pope member of the Church of Rome.

    Ursines defecate in forested areas.

  52. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton

    Re: to answer the headline question

    I think that throughout Europe's history, many far shittier ideas can be found.

  53. Hubert Thrunge Jr.
    Meh

    Interesting

    I wonder which major oil company funded this "Thinktank"???

    The main issue to mother earth is it's population. And while there is uncontrolled population growth, there will be an increased demand for energy and food. Due to natural market forces, this is a supply and demand market, that will lead to increases in commodity prices since there is a reduced amount of resource, per capita, available. How do you increase that per capita resource - 1. increase the size of the planet to accommodate the growing population or 2 - stop the population growth/reduce the population.

    A draconian Chinese style "one family one child" rule globally would help, though it would upset many of the worlds religions who promote ridiculous ideas about family.

    The best solution, if you want to help the planet by reducing consumption of natural resources is to simply stop breathing!

  54. jeremy996
    Meh

    Baby steps

    I have a Land Rover that runs on Waste Vegetable Oil, WVO, as my very small contribution to not using food crops to make road fuel and to try and leave some dino-diesel in the ground.

    You cannot argue with the Chatham House paper in terms of energy use for bio fuels; current policy is truly stupid. Unfortunately, I cannot see EU and national government coming up with better ideas, as they pander to vested interests and the need to get re-elected.

  55. Rick Dickinson

    Biodiesel

    I drive a diesel pickup truck. About 5 years ago, I had trouble with my fuel gauge starting to read incorrectly -- it stayed on "Empty" after I filled the tank. (I had also had a couple of clogged fuel injectors that needed replacement on two separate occasions prior to this.)

    The mechanic told me that the fuel gauge issue was probably due to a buildup of crud in the tank level sensor, from "dirty fuel" (and the clogged fuel injectors almost certainly were, as well). He suggested that, before paying him several hundred dollars in parts and labor to pull everything apart and replace the sensor, I should try adding a bottle of "Techron" fuel additive to a tank of fuel, and see if the detergent action would clean things off the sensor, and allow the gauge to work properly again.

    It did, but it took a second bottle in another tank of fuel to completely fix the problem.

    About a year later, it happened again. Coincidentally, I had been doing a lot of reading about biodiesel, and had heard that, among its other properties, it was a much better solvent than regular diesel, and tended to keep the fuel system "squeaky clean", even to the point of sometimes causing problems right after older vehicles were switched to it, as years of accumulated buildup in their fuel tanks would come loose, and could clog one's fuel filter.

    Since I do most of my own routine maintenance, I didn't mind the idea of maybe needing an early fuel filter change. So, I decided to try running some biodiesel in my truck, to see if it would work as well as the Techron additive had, and fix my fuel gauge problem. (The fact that, at the time, biodiesel was available for about $0.50 cheaper a gallon than regular "petrodiesel" may have helped carry the argument, as well....)

    The local biodiesel cooperative buys and supplies its members "B99", which is 100% biodiesel with just a "splash" of regular "petrodiesel" added. They do this to qualify for the government subsidy on all "blended" fuels.... They have 2 fueling stations located in trailers around the Los Angeles, California area, and one happens to be located not far from where I work, and the other isn't too far from my home.

    Well, after driving just a few miles with my first tank full of B99, my fuel gauge started working properly again. This was *much* faster than when I had used the additive, which required running 2 tanks of "doctored" diesel through my truck to fix the problem. I did replace my fuel filters about a month later, but not because of any problems -- it was just time to do it as part of routine maintenance on my truck. I didn't actually notice any difference from the times I had previously replaced the filters -- they looked about the same.

    I've made it a habit to run a tank of B99 through my truck every few months since then, and have never had a recurrence of the fuel gauge problem, or any more clogged fuel injectors. It's been about 4 years since I started running the occasional B99 tank, and, unfortunately, the prices on B99 have risen quite a bit in the interim. However, I am convinced that it does a very good job of keeping my entire fuel system clean, so I still put a tankful in every 3 or 4 months to help prevent problems.

    Honestly, I think the environmental arguments in favor of biofuels are complete bunk, at least considering the way that biofuels are currently produced. However, I find the occasional use of biodiesel worthwhile from a purely practical standpoint: it seems to do a very good job of preventing fuel injector and fuel gauge problems, by keeping my fuel system clean.

  56. Terry de Winne

    Biofuels

    Climate change is a red herring - if you want the right answer, you must ask the right question.

    What are we going to do when the oil runs out, Daddy?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amount of crops required

    Back of envelope calculation for amount of biofuel crops required. starts at about 1 min 50 sec into the presentation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5bVbfWuq-Q

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