EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


It is understandable that our elected representatives in the form of the Environment Council may wish to undertake more studies on moving to a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions. After all, this is a momentous step. PWR has some very good news in this regard, which will also delight BusinessEurope.

Towards the end of 2009 two Fraunhofers produced a report for the German Ministry of Education and Research which addressed the issue of “how much energy could the German manufacturing industry save in the medium term”. The answer was between 25 and 30%, or expressed another way – about half the energy currently consumed by German households (= roughly 15% of German CO2 emissions).

The European Commission was sufficiently impressed by the report to have the summary translated into English. If the European Council asks the Commission nicely, it might even let it have a copy of the summary.

One image that does not spring to mind when considering the German manufacturing industry is the word ‘inefficient’. Quite the reverse. That an institution known for its generally rigorous approach (i.e. the Fraunhofers) can identify medium-term (less than 10 years) savings in an industry admired globally for its efficient approach to most things suggests that as a minimum there are similar (if not greater) amounts of energy savings possible in the rest of the European manufacturing sector.

In turn this suggests that achieving the 30% (well in reality an additional 10%) over 10 years using efficiency measures in industry is not just possible but also desirable, since it would leave the European manufacturing industry in the position of using less energy to produce the same goods. PWR has no doubt that BusinessEurope and doubtless our elected representatives in the form of the environment ministers would support such a worthy aim (over to you chaps).

BusinessEurope (BE) is also correct in observing that CO2 emission reductions can only be tackled globally. However, as the Fraunhofer study has shown, important sectors such as manufacturing could take efficiency measures that would in turn allow Europe to easily reach the 30% and at the same time be more competitive.

I cannot imagine that either the ministers or BE would want a less competitive European manufacturing industry. So why not, for example, push hard for efficiency in the manufacturing industry and get to a double result – a more competitive industry and a painless 30% CO2 reduction?

In the case of ‘open markets’, these are to be desired and supported and in this PWR agrees with BE. Continuing in this context, PWR would be delighted to hear an explanation of China’s current lack of ‘market economy status’ vis-à-vis the EU and how this relates to ‘open markets’. If a lack of ‘market economy status’ means that China does not have an ‘open market’ then surely the fuss over border carbon tariffs (BCTs) does not matter.

The other curious aspect of BCTs rarely referred to is the July 2009 report from the WTO on border carbon taxes. Depending on where you sit, this gives either an orange light (get ready to go) or green light with respect to BCTs. Either the report is garbage (over to you, Pascal) or some member states and the European Commission are being ‘economical with the truth’ when they warble on about how the imposition of BCTs would leave Europe open to disputes in the WTO. Surely the WTO would not produce a report that encourages trade litigation – would it?

Yours sincerely,

Mike Parr


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  1. EU looks to alternative fuels for ‘green’ cars.
    I repond to the article referenced in Friday’s EurActiv as in the above title
    The article as presented is seemingly contradictory in its words. It points towards biofuels (and electrically driven vehicals and hydrogen fuel cells) as the real options of choice – albeit in a order that is wrong – and then adds to it indirectly – that irrespective of this there will (undoubtedly) be a continuing use of fossil fuels in the mix including oil, natural gas (a fossil fuel) LPG (a fossil fuel) and synthetic fuels (basically a fuel derived from fossil fuels.) This article highlights the fact that the provision of an alternative to the current dominance of fuels derived from fossil fuels is highly unlikely – a statement that in the main everyone will have to agree with in its simplicity. However let it not be such a surprise that with the nature of all these predictions about the future those that predict seem to be able to gain comfort from the fact that after an event they will all tell us that they were “all right!”
    Before moving onwards to discuss the issue in more detail lets consider the hypothesis as here in the following: If China and India alone were to target the use of 1 car per 5 of their populations by 2050 (as recently reported) these two countries ALONE would have 750 million extra cars by that time. If we were to add the countries Indonesia Pakistan the Philippines and some of the African Nations and also include the natural growth patterns in Mexico and Brazil to this the figure would be around 1000 million! Perhaps this might be better explained in the following words which should be thought of as a wake-up call for the World. The issue is one of great importance to us all.
    • The World’s population is expected to reach 9 Billion by 2050: two thirds will be living in Cities.
    • The resulting Growth in Road Transportation in China and India and the developing Nations could mean that we will have an additional 1,000 million Cars by 2050.
    • The demand for fuel for Road Transport alone would increase by almost 30%
    • If that Oil was available to exploit for this use alone we would need to have a new supply equivalent to the whole of the Middle East Africa and South America ready by 2030.
    • It is more than likely that we could not provide this fuel from Existing known Oil resources, for much of those will be directed to meet existing needs!
    • It would increase the emission of Green House Gases from Road Transport by 100%.
    The World is fixated on using personal transport: and the likelihood of it moving away from the internal combustion engine as the main drive system will remain with us for at least 30 years and almost certainly longer. There is the potential to use:- (i) Electrically- Driven vehicles is limited due to cost of the vehicles and this is coupled to the other issues (equally well stated) such as making the electricity needed, lack of range and the needs for recharging; or (ii) PEMFC (Proton/Polymer Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell) Driven vehicles is limited due to the cost of making the vehicles and this is equally coupled to the production of electricity needed and back-up infrastructure. As a consequence the demand for fuel-driven vehicles will again be centred on liquid fuels – albeit – with an increasing shift toward augmenting and then supplanting these with Renewable Fuels.
    The perspective I would then suggest in the above is one which apart from the obvious is intended to be provocative. It is no good saying to China and India you cannot do this or even contemplate this as a way forward and use the Green house Gas issue as the mechanism to prevent it: for that is almost like “taking coals to Newcastle” and for those that have such benefits denying it to others is frankly hypocritical! The Government of the PRC has already been reported to have said this in their reply here and it is worth perhaps summarising this in simple phrases. The West has no rights in“denying the Chinese people the use of one car per houehold (or family) when many families in the West (ie the EU EU, the USA/Canada, Japan etc.) already have 2, 3 or even 4 cars per household! The Chinese people have as much a right to personalised transport as the people in the West and we will have to accept their rights to do so.
    Having said that the issue must be “how to provide the fuels for such transport?” for it now seems – obvious – that the oil reserves are running out and rather thn work in isolation we should all work together to find suitable alternatives and then the means to make them.
    It is here that the notion portayed in this article is somewhat at variance with the recent missives reported in EurActiv. Just a few months ago Mika Aho, Managing Director, St1 Biofuels Oy in Finland was interviewed about the issue of making biofuels using waste, and the comments back in the letters section was very interesting.
    More recently EurActi itself reported on the use of the biomass in Agricultural and Farming Wastes and the potential there to use – what was stated within that article to be – up to 300 million tonnes per annum of that resource to make ethanol fuel. Now that is a serious quantity of a raw material but it is one which is in its own rights a source of contention. It was also pointed out (regrettably) in the same article that the companies that make the dry energy were also interested in this resource to make electricity. Here I believe the EU was in error and in fact was wrong! The use of a raw material that is one of a few materials that can readily be converted to the biofuels ethanol/butanol/bio-kerosenes should not be used to make electricty. Why do I think so? Well the answer is fairly simple: there are far fewer methods and raw material choices available to make the renewable liquid fuels or biofuels than there are to make dry renewable energy as electricity. In the first the principal source and raw materials are biomass: in the latter the choice is much wider and includes wind, wave, solar, photo-voltaic, pressure transducer methods, hydro-electric and estuarial-electric, hot rock and ground heat systems for a start and biomass should be the last resort.)
    Whilst it is recognised that biomass (generic plant matter) which is grown on land represents one source of raw material for manufacturing the biofuels (ethanol butanol or bio-kerosenes) we should also remember that there are also the water-borne options – the phytoplanktons in the form of the macroalgae or sea weeds. Whilst this resource is seemingly large and currently untapped using the natural materials growing in the oceans and lakes may not be at all practical for producing the huge quantities of fuels the World needs in the longer term.
    It is here that the developents in Israel and Argentina immediately come to mind in the developments surrounding farmed macroalgae in shallow lagoons of salt/brackish/polluted water where carbon dioxide is pumped in to the algal material to enhance growth. Such sytems as developed hear have already shown that with selective breeding of hybrid sea-weeds they can produce yields of biomass which when harvested on a cycle of 3 to 8 weeks can be expected to produce yields of ethanol that are 25 times the quantity produced from sugar cane per hectare of land (with a projection within 15 years of 40 times!) Importantly though these systems can be built to grow the sea weeds from the spent carbon dioxide dischrged in the exhaust gases from power stations and industry for a fraction of the proposition for CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) systems proposed within the EU!
    So in thinking this through from the current article can we find enough material biomass to make the quantity of biofuels needed and can it be done economically? Contrary to the tenets of the article I believe that it can and for the following reasons.
    Firstly there is a need for the biofuels. Whilst there is all the rhettoric about electrically-driven and hydrogen cars becoming available in what the industry suggests are “large numbers.” Producing 70 million hydrogen cars by 2050 (the experts prediction) whilst reasonable would be but a mere 3.5% of the projected number of personalised cars (and small vans) on the road at that time! For electrically-driven vehicles the potential for say an equal number of say 70 million vehicles would equally fail the needs. Frankly even with say just 1,500 million cars on the roads by that time (Worl-Wide) we would still need biofuels.
    Sceondly there are plentiful sources of biomass available that could be developed to source the biofuels. We talk of it arising from Municipal Solid Waste, Agriculture and Farming, Food and Drinks production, and from Industry and Commerce as a major source. In the EU that would almost certainly produce the best part of 40% of the need. Then there are the macroalgae sources which were discussed earlier.
    Thirdly there is the cost issue. Making the biofuels from generic biomass is not at all complicated. Let’s be serious about it in the 1820s it was fully understood that lignocellulose could be refracted to cellulose and hemicellulose fairly easily without the need for complex “genetically modified organisms” or “super-enzymes” and it became an industry in the late 19th and 20th centuries. This acid hydrolysis system still works, and with simple additions to make it continuous now produces far better results than have ever been anticipated.
    Such a system is being developed in the EU now and is shortly to be set in motion by Genesyst in the UK using the dilute acid hydrolysis and the patented gravity pressure vessel developed by the company’s founder James Titmas in Genesyst Inc. from Ohio USA. It will be in South Milford West Yorkshire with Mytum and Selby on a £60 million project (the first of two) to produce over 80 million litres of bioethnaol from 300,000 tonnes per year of biomass from recovered MSW to commissioned end 2012. They are also working with an Isareli company in the Mediterranean in Malta on a €90 million project (the first of three) to produce over 90 million litres of bioethanol from 280,000 tonnes per year of biomass to be commissioned in early 2013 and a second project of €150 million and 200 million litres of bioethanol for completion a year later. Another project at Hardenberg (Holland) is to manufacture the biofuel ethanol from a combination of biomasses from Municipal Solid Waste and Agriculture This €60 million project to make 55 miillion litres of bioethanol from 200,000 tonnes of biomass from agriculture and MSW should get started in early January 2011 and deliver bioethanol end 2012 and on to further projects in the EU. This project was delayed as a result of the banking crisis in Europe. These three projects are being driven forward by the knowledge that the competition is to make bioethanol at a rate comparable to its manufacture in Brazil and the USA. Such is the drive and momentum behind these projects that opportunities are developing at a pace with a further 10 to 15 further projects in the pipeline for producing up to 4 billion litres of ethanol by 2020 are already being viewed using the same system. Genesyst UK and its partner CCHC in macroalgae has already been courted by three power and oil companies to capture the spent carbon dioxide from their plants to make the biofuels ethanol/butanol and bio-kerosene in a €400 to 600 million development to produce around 1 billion litres of bioethanol.
    So the answer is yes to the EU it can be done and the EU needs to encorage all of those it can to move forwards in this area otherwise it (the EU) will be forever at the mercy of importing its fuels for transport from outside its contraol aagain. That is not acceptable for although global warming is an issue security of supplies of fuels is equally important, and with the fossil fuel oil inexorably becoming depleted we cannot wait for this depletion to have occurred before we do something.

  2. Sirs: To add confirmation about the fact that the costs of manufacturing the renewable fuels from biomass may not be so expensive.

    I have just determined that the project being developed in Malta by Applied Biofuels Limited (with Genesyst UK Limited…they can be found by linking in to the web site is going ahead. The information leaking out from Malta suggests that this will produce over 90 million litres of ethanol from about 300,000 tonnes of biomass and will be costing about €90 million. It is also expected to employ 140 permanent staff (required to deal with the double manning and shift patters.) This project is to be funded totally from private sources without any intervention/help from Malta or the EU (Hence it seems that it has taken over a year to conclude) and will be financed entirely from outside Malta. … This project is expected to be producing ethanol in late 2012 running up to full production in 2013.
    I also hear more news from the same source that the company proposes to build a second project there to produce over 140 million litres of ethanol from about 500,000 tonnes of biomass – including farmed macro algae – sea weed – developed in (I believe I hear correctly) Israel but possibly Argentina and be costing about €150 million. … This is expected to employ over 175 permanent staff. This project it is hoped will be producing ethanol in late 2013 and fully operational in 2014.
    It is understood that the help from the EU in terms of taxation advantages for making the biofuel ethanol from ligno-cellulose and other non-food sources of biomass like macro algae (a change which has been long overdue in the EU) has helped assist in this development.

    So there we have it – Good News for Malta.

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