Leaked JRC Working Paper Criticizes European Transportation Biofuels Plan
18 January 2008
The costs of achieving the proposed 10% biofuels target in Europe will likely outweigh the benefits and may not even reduce greenhouse gas emissions according to an internal working document by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center that was leaked to the European press.
The JRC, which with EUCAR and CONCAWE has performed detailed sets of well-to-wheels analysis of different fuel and powertrain combinations (earlier post), noted in the report that the costs will almost certainly outweigh the benefits, with net “decrease in welfare” of between €33 to €65 billion within an 80% probability range. In addition:
The uncertainty is too great to say whether the EU 10 per cent biofuel target will save greenhouse gas or not.
The paper suggests that the indirect emissions caused by the conversion of land to biofuel production and the displacement of farming could potentially negate the savings from conventional biofuels.
The study further concludes that the decision to specifically target greenhouse gas reductions in the transport sector reduces the benefits which could be achieved in other ways with the same EU resources. In terms of greenhouse gas reduction per hectare of land, “it is substantially more efficient to use the biomass to generate electricity than to produce conventional biofuels.”
If this is true, then there is only one way to go: electrification of transportation.
Unfortunately, this would probably mean new nuclear power plants too. Although an earlier study stated that almost all of the current US light duty vehicle fleet could be charged at night with the currently installed power generation capacity. I assume Europe would be similar from this respect.
Actually, I wouldn't mind new nuclear plants if they were the latest, safe types and renewables would be forced too (let's say with a fixed ration between them).
Posted by: sola | 18 January 2008 at 08:58 AM
BioFuels were never cost-effective, even back when we thought they did reduce emissions.
And now we're finding that they don't even reduce emissions, they increase them.
1. Any significant breakthroughs in biofuels processing can be directly applied to turning coal into a liquid. Since coal is also a biomass solid.
2. Then there's the water aspect. BioFuels are very water intensive. They are also very water polluting.
3. Then there's the soil quality issues.
4. Deforrestation due to displaced farmland
5. Diverts away from whats actually important, like increasing our CAFE standards, or Greenhouse Reducing Electricity
6. Then there's to food price/shortage issue
7. Then there's the GMO/Pesticide/FactoryFarm aspect of things.
8. Then there's the cost/subsidies issue. (Viewed in a context of "Relative Greenhouse Reduction Potential". That money could be better spent elsewhere.)
Also not suprisingly, the UK is already going through a natural-gas based fertilizer shortage.
And then last, but most importantly, even if it were beneficial, there isn't going to be enough feedstock for it.
Posted by: GreyFlcn | 18 January 2008 at 09:05 AM
==Unfortunately, this would probably mean new nuclear power plants too.==
Most likely not.
Nuclear costs too much
Gets far too much subsidies
and scales up too slowly.
And ironically, aren't well suited for increasing temperatures
Something more likely for Europe would be a switch towards
1. SolarThermal with Molten Salt Storage
3. And if possible a mix of wind, and marine current energy
But then again, even if you're running on Coal electricity, it would still be like driving a hybrid in emissions.
Which pretty much means you just can't go wrong with electric.
Posted by: GreyFlcn | 18 January 2008 at 09:23 AM
It is easy to dismiss the GHG reductions by limiting the GHG definition. Particulates, and petroleum related pollutants (not CO2) decrease in varying numbers across the biofuel spectrum. Simply using a sustainable resource as opposed to non-sustainable one is an environmental win.
There are many political pressures to impede the transition to sustainable liquid fuels. We should not let those pressures dissuade us from moving forward and building out the biofuel infrastructure. Sustainable liquid fuels are a key element in our energy transition for the foreseeable future.
Posted by: gr | 18 January 2008 at 12:33 PM
@Grey, While I like your pluck and you seem to be on about impotrant issues. A couple of issues.
Firstly and severly, Your blogs are repetitive and seem rather self justifying and defensive, or to put it another way little more open minded and less attack dog would be good for me.
Secondly, along the same line, take it constructively,
I beleive we need to encourage diversity as there are more opportunites that way, no one size will fit all so it is presumtious to assume that what may be a total failure from one perspective may be just what the doctor ordered somewhere else.
I may be the subject of the saying
"Keep your mind open, but not so open your brains fall out" I dont see you as having any risk of going too far that way.
The pacific islanders - Polynesia, Melanesia through to Papua and the Pilippines have Huge coconut based fuel industries to the extent of almost total reliance in certain areas These remote and probably best desribed as third world nations seem to value their biofuels as manna.
Posted by: arnold | 18 January 2008 at 02:03 PM
You have repeatedly called fossil fuels a form of biomass which simply shows how out of touch with proper definitions you are. How many acres of coal do you plan to plant this year anyway? How long is the coal growing season? Seems to me that it takes 100,000,000 years at least for biomass to fossilize into coal which is why it is a FOSSIL FUEL.
Posted by: | 19 January 2008 at 11:51 AM
Yes, but the point being that it is raw material which can be processed into a liquid using the exact same infrastructure and R&D breakthroughs being planned for biofuels production.
The Germans were doing Fischer-Tropsch way back in the 1930's.
RangeFuels is doing Fischer-Tropsch now, with the singular exception that they aren't putting current biomass in, instead of old biomass (coal).
Posted by: GreyFlcn | 19 January 2008 at 04:30 PM
In the U.S. we have so much agricultural biomass that can be converted to fuel, it makes it not that difficult. This would be revenue to the farmers which might reduce subsidies and produce cleaner air. We just have to have the will to do it. The private sector is taking too long to do too little. It will take a massive program to make a significant difference.
Posted by: sjc | 23 January 2008 at 08:52 AM
==In the U.S. we have so much agricultural biomass that can be converted to fuel, it makes it not that difficult.==
Posted by: GreyFlcn | 23 January 2008 at 10:52 AM