Biodiesel: what’s the rationale?

Why bother with biodiesel? The European Biodiesel Board published a list of questions and answers in July, in response to the European Commission, which asked for comments as part of its plan to modify
Directive 2003/30, the biofuels directive. The post was made before I started blogging, but worth a look for context

There are three main reasons behind the European Community’s decision in 2001 to promote biodiesel within the political bloc. Securing supply, reducing greenhouse emissions and also stimulating rural areas. All of which are hard to argue with on their own, but there is no talk of conservation, or using price as a mechanism to reduce demand for fuel, which would happen in an open market.

Looking at the cold hard demand side of the equitation the EBB said:

As far as diesel market are concerned EU diesel demand increased dramatically in the last years leading to a substantial rise in diesel imports from third countries and more particularly from Russia. Observing the continuing dieselisation of EU cars and the increasing demand for diesel (from the US and worldwide), analysts predict a future shortage threat for Europe that may face a shortfall of 50million tonnes a year of diesel by 2015 under current investment schemes, further confirming the validity of promoting biofuels and even the specific urgent necessity, for Europe, to promote the available diesel substitutes and notabley biodiesel.

The group also says that transport is around 98% reliant on fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gasses is around 21% of all greenhouse gases in the sector, and that the volume of greenhouse gasses produced by the transport sector is around 24%/year greater than it was in 1990.

The pro-biodiesel lobby says that switching small amounts of demand into biodiesel will have considerable positive impacts on the global warming potential of the transport sector. This is because, the marginal oil that will increasingly have to be extracted to meet demand comes from sources such as tar-sands which generate about six-times the volume of carbon dioxide per tonne extracted than conventional oil. So biofuels will help to dilute the overall impact of energy demand.

Finally, biodiesel is good for agriculture and rural economies.

There are a load of obstacles to using biodiesel these range from the tax regime in different states, differing levels of commitment (no surprise there, EU member countries are pretty divergent in terms of implementing Directives that they have jointly agreed, but that’s another story).

The document is a gold mine of information and well worth examining at your leisure.. I’ll be dipping back in…

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