Not all regulation is good. The biofuel issue illustrates better than most others that if governments get things wrong, and impose that error widely, then disaster ensues. And the biofuel issue illustrates the few options left to the individual when government makes big mistakes.
I'm here talking about crops grown for fuel (and it doesn't really matter whether we are talking biomass or biofuel here) on a large scale and on land that could be or was producing food. I'm not thinking of biofuels produced from household or agricultural waste. I've written about this issue over the last couple of years a few times here (see here, here, here and here).
I won't go into the details again now - the essence of the argument is that if you use productive agricultural land for growing fuel rather than food then the food has to be grown somewhere else - and it will be. Because the world isn't large and empty, the places that extra food is grown are likely to be places like rainforests which are currently rich in carbon and rich in biodiversity and good at producing ecosystem services of a wide variety of types. And because rainforests (and grasslands etc) are good at storing carbon whereas most biofuel crops lead to low savings in carbon the perverse outcome is that carbon suffers, wildlife suffers and food production suffers - an amazing triple whammy. Well done us!
This argument has largely been won with decision-makers (although vested interests oppose change as they always do) although winning the argument has not led to any substantial change in government policy, so far. Later today when I will up my car with diesel I will have no option but to be putting the bodies of long-dead lifeforms into my tank (that's what those fossil fuels are after all) but also more than a splash of biofuel which represents the bodies of dead tigers or other wildlife which will have suffered from this crazy EU-wide policy.
And so if you want to participate in the Red Tape challenge then as well as telling government to get its hands off laws that protect wildlife (see yesterday's blog) why not also post a comment asking for the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to be revoked forthwith? I have.
It is hard to think of a major policy that is more seriously flawed than the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation(RTFO). The world's oceans and forests, especially the rain forests are the very best absorbers and storers of carbon. They do all of this free of charge without any carbon penalty and yet the human species abuses and destroys them along with their incredible wildlife. Proper analysis of the energy required to produce a litre of biofuel will also show the policy is crazy. Thinking it through, firstly the ground where the crop is to be grown has to be prepared/cleared, energy is reqired for that, next fertilser is no doubt needed, a lot of energy goes into producing artificial fertiliser, next the crop may have to be sprayed, then harvested, then processed and refined, then transported to distribution depots for blending into the main fuel and finally transported to outlets. The carbon released in doing all this, per litre of biofuel produced, will, for sure, exceed by a wide margin, the non fossil fuel carbon in the produced litre of biofuel, rendering the policy even more absurd. The RTFO must be revoked forthwith before it continues to do even more damage to the natural world and to ourselves.
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