Report: biofuels raise the cost of gas for little environmental benefit

From the liberal BBC.

Excerpt:

A report by Chatham House says the growing reliance on sustainable liquid fuels will also increase food prices.

The author says that biodiesel made from vegetable oil was worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

Under EU law, biofuels are set to make up 5% of the UK’s transport fuel from today.

Since 2008, the UK has required fuel suppliers to add a growing proportion of sustainable materials into the petrol and diesel they supply. These biofuels are mainly ethanol distilled from corn and biodiesel made from rapeseed, used cooking oil and tallow.

But research carried out for Chatham House says that reaching the 5% level means that UK motorists will have to pay an extra £460m a year because of the higher cost of fuel at the pump and from filling up more often as biofuels have a lower energy content.

The report say that if the UK is to meet its obligations to EU energy targets the cost to motorists is likely to rise to £1.3bn per annum by 2020.

[…]There are also worries that taking EU land out of production to grow rapeseed oil in particular is creating more climate problems than it solves. The more fuel of this type that is put into cars the bigger the deficit created in the edible oils market. This had lead to increased imports of palm oil from Indonesia, often produced on deforested land.

“Once you take into account these indirect effects, biofuels made from vegetable oils actually result worldwide in more emissions than you would get from using diesel in the first place,” said Rob Bailey.

“Plus you are asking motorists to pay more for the fuel – it makes no sense, it is a completely irrational strategy.”

Meanwhile, closer to home:

The Obama administration on Monday renewed an interagency agreement that backs the development of biofuels for the aviation industry and reiterated its support for embattled federal renewable fuel targets.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed a pact extending a program that has worked with the private sector and rural communities to create an alternative to fossil fuels for aviation.

“We want to re-affirm the importance of this particular industry in this administration,” Vilsack told reporters at an industry conference in Washington.

The “Farm to Fly” program aims to support annual production of 1 billion gallons of aviation biofuels by 2018.

The program will focus on evaluating various sources of renewable alternatives to jet fuel, while also developing state and local partnerships with private companies.

Federal support for biofuels has come under increased scrutiny amid complaints from livestock producers and refiners that the federal biofuels mandate has contributed to higher food prices and could threaten gasoline supplies.

This isn’t a smart way to improve air quality, and it’s not going to help consumers who are already paying a ton of money for gas.

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