The Road Ahead : October November 2007
OCT/NOV 07 7 full scale bio fuels pr oduction in Australia offers oppor tunities and risks. Biofuels in Australia -- issues and prospects predicts benefits for farmers, jobs, emissions and fuel security but warns grain supplies for livestock could fall, causing grain prices to rise. The repor t established that E10 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are lower than for fossil fuels but must also factor in the carbon dioxide emitted in growing, har vesting, transpor ting and distilling the crops. It found, compared with ULP, the GHG emissions on E10 were between 1.7 percent (wheat) and 5.12 percent (C- molasses and co-generation) lower. RIRDC predicted E10 could reduce par ticulate emissions from the tailpipe but could also increase evaporative emissions of smog-forming compounds and negatively impact on air quality in some circumstances. Because many studies come from overseas, Orbital is testing vehicles in Australian conditions to compare emissions. Results are due next year. Questions remain about the pollution of groundwater supplies by ethanol, while suppor ters argue even more ethanol in fuel would reduce evaporation concerns. Even if you believe oil will never run out, ethanol helps the nation become less reliant on fossil fuels, most of which are impor ted. However, exper ts doubt ethanol could ever fully replace fossil fuels. CSIRO Low Emissions Transpor t Leader David Lamb said ethanol would extend fuel supplies but forecast a realistic target, in line with worldwide biofuel predictions, of 10 percent of our petrol needs. "The hype about biofuels by far evel iety deser ves to have access to all the facts," Mr Lamb said. "Is ethanol a good thing? Well, it's better than nothing. Ever y drop will be precious." "On present crop productivity numbers, if we used all of Australia's arable land for fuel crops, at most we would replace 76 percent of our petrol. The expor t por tion of those grains is currently about 50 percent of that 76 percent." "We're obviously not going to do that because we need to eat. A much better method would be to cut petrol use." He flagged a host of challenging options to help reduce oil dependence, including coal to liquid, gas to liquid, ethanol from next- generation lignocellulosis, hydrogen and methanol fuel cells, smaller and lighter cars and a return to electric vehicles in cities. RIRDC's repor t found Australia could meet planned ethanol capacity or a national E10 target in normal years but would need to impor t wheat in drought years. The Corporation cautions about land and water use, with var ying impacts depending on scale, location and crop. The same study noted that although Australia's handful of ethanol producers currently used waste starch and C-molasses, increased production could cause competition between food, livestock and biofuels industries for the countr y's Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), says full-scale bio-fuels production in Australia exceeds any capabilities -- and the le of misinformation is staggering. Soc deser ves to have access to all the ges commodity crops. It highlighted rises in food prices overseas from such competition. Consensus finally emerges around lignocellulosic technology, able to use grasses, algae or other biomass to produce fuels. Although still experimental, these operations promise superior returns on energy, environmental and economic grounds. The newly formed Biofuels Association of Australia (BAA) says it will work The CSR ethanol plant at Sarina, nor th Queensland.
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August September 2007