September 14, 2010

Scottish whisky quenching biofuels debate

At a time when Scottish scientists and the whisky industry are bringing a sustainable biofuel to market, the debate about biofuels continues to rage with diverse opinion over the impacts of the EU biofuel industry and policies.

The good news is that a new biofuel made from whisky distilling by-products has been patented recently by Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. After two years of laboratory research in close collaboration with the whisky industry, the next step is to create a spin-out company to develop and launch the biobutanol based “drop-in” vehicle fuel. Every year, whisky producers presently generate over 1,600,000,000 litres of by-product suitable for biobutanol.

Whilst the “whisky-fuel” developers point out that the EU has a target of 10% fuel sales being biofuel by 2020, Friends of the Earth (FOE), on the other hand, are keen for the EU to scrap its biofuel policy.

A new FOE report – Africa Up For Grabs – describes how rainforests and natural vegetation are being destroyed for biofuel feedstock plantations, competing with food crops in countries where famine is rarely far away. They blame the EU biofuel policy for this and suggest it’s creating a neo-colonial land grab. Evidently, over 5,000,000 hectares of land is being appropriated by foreign companies with a view to meeting the EU biofuel market targets.

In other parts of the world – particularly Brazil – politicians and the agro-fuels industry are angry with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive because it includes policies designed to limit the import of foreign biofuels. Brazilians claim that the EU are using “environmental protection” as an excuse to protect Europe’s incipient biofuel companies against Brazil’s highly competitive industry. Brazil has been producing and consuming biofuels for well over 20 years.


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