From National Biodiesel News:
The National Energy Leadership Award was presented in recognition of Senator Maria Cantwell’s efforts as a member of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to promote the production and use of biodiesel.
Senator Cantwell was a speaker at Laurelhurst Oil’s biodiesel station grand opening.
Read the press release.
There are many articles in the news these days about biodiesel and other biofuels. The myths and misconceptions about biodiesel have propagated largely due to lack of understanding about the various forms of biofuels. Ethanol, for instance, is a biofuel that has many drawbacks, most importantly a low net energy gain. Our blog focuses on biodiesel because that is our area of expertise. With that in mind, this discussion will focus solely on the common biodiesel myths.
The bulk of this article was used by kind permission from:
ColumbiaFuels.com, Canada’s BioHeat source
Biofuels use valuable arable land that should be used for growing food.
The two main crops used in North America to produce biodiesel are soybeans (US) and canola (Canada). The oil is extracted from the soybean and canola seed, which is then processed into biodiesel. Soybeans are actually grown for their protein, and the lesser value oil co-product only makes up 18% of the output. Of the total soy oil production, only 5% of it is currently used for non food production such as biodiesel. The increased demand for biodiesel made from soybeans will not result in accelerated planting of soybeans, as the growth of the soybean market is dependent on the protein market (which is primarily used as animal feed), not the oil market. If more soybeans are grown to produce oil for biodiesel, the net result would be increased availability of protein for the food market, effectively lowering prices.
In Canada the federal government recently announced requirement that 2% of the volume of diesel used in Canada be replaced with renewable diesel (biodiesel). To do this, 1.3 million tonnes of canola seed would be required. The “carry over” of canola seed (unsold volume) was 1.59 million tonnes in 2004/05; 2.02 million tonnes in 2005/06 and 1.58 million tonnes for 2006/07. Therefore there is already enough “excess” canola oil to replace 2% of Canada’s diesel supply.
People are going hungry in the world while we are growing food for energy.
Presently food is at a surplus, however there are many reasons this surplus food is not getting to the people who need it such as; war, poverty, drought, climate change, lack of education, poor land management, government policy and corruption. To learn more on this subject read this eye opening article called Twelve Myths About Hunger
As demand for biofuels goes up, so does the need for more farmland.
Although much of the North American biodiesel production comes from co-products of food crops from farm lands, the impetus has been on using the whole plant for this kind of production and also to gain higher yields, not increasing more farmland. Farmers are more interested in getting more from each acre of land they plant and to become less dependent on government subsidies. However the future of biodiesel cannot depend on crops like soy or canola forever and will eventually shift to non food alternatives that provide higher yields such as algae. As the demand for biodiesel increases so will the research and development of newer and higher yielding solutions.
Biofuels are responsible for driving up global food prices.
Global food economics are a complex phenomenon. Over the past year food prices have been escalating, and while biofuels are partially responsible, increased global food demand, high oil prices, inclement weather and currency fluctuations are all key factors in explaining the new world of food economics.
Consider the rising price of oil now at record highs. Every step in food production consumes a lot of oil – from reaping to plastic packaging to transporting the food to the customer. Given all of the oil used in modern food production and transport, as the price of oil goes up, the price of food inevitably has to go up too.
One other significant factor in driving up global food prices is the rising wealth in the developing world. As families get richer, their consumption of meat and dairy products increases and hence, so do the demands on grain crops since, for example, ten kilograms of grain go into every kilogram of beef.
Although competing pressure for crops from biofuels may be partially responsible for increased food prices, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. Food is now at its cheapest level historically and we’re spending a smaller portion of our disposable income on food than we ever have. While grocery bills may rise modestly, higher agricultural commodity prices are a benefit in many ways. Farmers are having a rare period of prosperity, reducing their dependence on government subsidies. In 2006, the US government gave corn farmers $8.8 billion in subsidies. Thanks to high corn prices, subsidies are expected to drop to $2.1 billion in 2007. During the long period of low commodity prices, many farmers were leaving their acreage fallow, as farming it would have been too risky an endeavor. Now with higher commodity prices, significant areas of land are now being added back into the growing pool, helping make up for the land used to grow crops for biofuels.
Higher incomes for farmers also mean healthier rural economies and more jobs in North America. As for poor countries, local production of biofuels from locally grown crops, where appropriate, can cut dependence and cash expenditure on imported fuels, increase community self-reliance, and provide a spur for local job creation and growth. Additionally, higher global commodity prices allow third world farmers to produce crops competitively with the historically cheaper subsidized crops coming from the first world.
For more information on this topic, read:
How Food and Fuel compete for land by Lester Brown