The trouble with biofuels


Canola can be used as a biofuel.

Credit: istockphoto

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The Horizon

However, such ideas clearly show that biofuels still have a role to play in the fight against climate change. It is a point summed up in a recent report, Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges, by the Royal Society in Britain.

"Biofuels are one of the few technologies currently available that have the potential to displace oil. There are real opportunities to develop efficient biofuel supply chains that can deliver substantial greenhouse gas savings," the report states.

In particular, future biofuels produced from the ligno-cellulose in dedicated energy crops, such as perennial grasses, and from forestry, the co-products from food production, and domestic vegetable waste are likely to be of special value, it concludes.

It is a point backed by a recent CSIRO report on biodiesel's potential in Australia. A study by biofuel expert Tom Beer found that "biodiesel has the potential to reduce emissions from the transport industry, which is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in Australia, after power generation and agriculture."

Care needs to be taken about sources, particularly those involving palm oil from plantation, Beer admits. Nevertheless, with some extra research and commitment, it is clear that biofuels could still end up playing a very important role in helping to save our planet, he concludes.

For Morris Lyda and his Biodiesel Station, that is eminently sensible news.

"It is clear fossil fuels are soon going to dry up. We need alternatives and biofuels made from second generation processes that use agricultural waste as their basic ingredients are clearly the best prospect that we have. Biofuels offer great potential. They are our future, quite frankly."

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