Labour's biofuel strategy in tatters

Biofuels drive running out of gas – 28 Mar 2008 – NZ Herald: New Zealand National news

Helen Clark decking herself out as a pump attendant and launching Labour’s Biofuels policy was as successful as her attending rugby matches. This time though it is her party and their supporters that are losing the game.

Growing concern about the merit of biofuels is threatening to derail a Government push to get the new fuels flowing out of petrol pumps in little more than three months.

The biofuel bill, now before a select committee, proposes to make oil companies begin selling a small but progressively higher amount of biofuels each year from July 1.

But while the bill passed its first reading comfortably, widespread political support is no longer as assured because of worries that the legislation does not deal strongly enough with questions about whether biofuels will come from sustainable sources.

As someone who extensively researched biofuels before investing in the industry I certainly know that biofuels are unsustainable no matter what you use. With th epossible exception of Algae. Quite simply New Zealand doesn’t have enough viable crops for the cost effective production of biofuels. Don’t get me started by suggesting we use tallow.

Let me tell you a little story about tallow. There are many grades of tallow. Various earnest plonkers have suggested that we use NZ’s prodigious meat industry and their production of tallow to make biofuels. Unfortunately thhey run into something called market forces, something most university professors have never experience. Even if we used all of the available tallow in New Zealand to try to make biofuels there is only enough to make about 4% of New Zealand growing fuel requirements. Now for the problems. Tallow of good quality sells at about $1.00 per litre on the open market and is mostly exported to Japan, Korea and China for the manufacture of soap. They basically take all of the good grades and leave three grades for domestic consumption. The remaining amount is about a fifth of the total produced. Plus that remaining amount is the hardest most disgusting vile stuff you can imagine. It is also the most difficult to turn into biofuels. The trans-esterfication of the tallow needs a minimum investment in a plant of about $100 million. Worse our tallow is predominantly Sheep Tallow making it even more difficult. In order for tallow or indeed any raw material to be economically useful in the production of biofuels it needs to cost between $0.15 and $0.30 maximum. Any more and you will go broke slowly. Given that tallow sells overseas for $1.00 per litre at the processing plant you can see why this plan is screwed before the get go.

Now we do produce wheat, but most of it is used to produce food, there isn’t enough of it even for that so we import it. I’ve looked at coconut oil. Unfortunately a country like Samoa simply can’t produce enough of it even to supply their own small requirements let alone New Zealand, then you have to ship either the biofuel or the raw coconut oil to NZ making cost in the vicinity of $1.50 landed. That ain’t goin’ to work. Also the islanders currently expect the equivalent of $1 just for ambling around the plantation and picking up the coconut. Again that isn’t going to work.

There are stuff all other crops that you can use to produce biofuels so Helen’s plan just won’t work. Have you wondered why the cost of food is going up? Well because farmers are selling their suitable crops around the world to biofuel producers for more than they can get for them as food. Thus we now have a food shortgage, driving up prices all for stupid biofuels. The economics simply don’t make any sense and sure as hell not and dollars either. Let me also tell you that there simply isn’t any viable “sustainable” source of biofuels anywhere in the world and certainly not in the quantities that we need.

I welcome an argument from a Climate Change zealot on this, I truly do. I’ve spent quite a considerable time making sure I understand this from beginning to end. I laugh at your pathetic attempts to try to rebut me. Helen Clark won’t even be able to get a job pumping gas by the time this debacle is finished.

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