EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘Bio-economy poses new competitiveness challenges for Europe‘:

Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has highlighted an area where the EU is missing out compared to other countries – particularly the USA. It need not do so, for it actually needs to address it through a different emphasis.

Firstly, the EU should seriously consider removing the ridiculous subsidies to Biomass-burning Power Stations, which we read about across the EU and which are built by a variety of energy companies. These subsidies also include massively expensive incineration plants that countries like Ireland, Croatia, the UK or Italy cannot afford.

It is iniquitous on the one hand that subsidising companies which do not need subsidising only for these same companies to use these massive subsidies to fill shareholders’ pockets. (Remember this has been around before, as the EU has already made it known that this is not acceptable for companies such as ALCOA in the issue reported on in Sicily or for the others that may be heard have similar equal issues elsewhere – where these subsidies end up in shareholders’ pockets as magnificent dividends! (If this was not the case then consider the issue of why so many of these facilities get sold off even before they are working.)

What Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is seemingly saying is that this wasted money could be better spent on bio-refineries and the developments we now see with those that are seriously looking at changing the perception of dealing with converting biomass from sustainable sources (such as Non Food and Waste and Macroalgae). They are currently being followed and engineered by pioneering companies that never get the credence that is due to them. All that happens is the mega-big companies grasp the issue head on, gaining these huge subsidies at the others’ loss.

If it wants to address this issue fully and square on, the EU (and those that can make the decisions, like EU Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and others, right up to Mr. Barroso) should take note.

Karel Yurian

Private citizen

Author :


  1. It is about time someone else picked this up in the EU rather than my protestations of the past. I see various companies in the European Union attempting to gain a threshold of the EU Bio-Economy only to be ousted by companies who do not need these subsidies other than for the purposes mentioned previously.

    Surely the Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (as a representative of the Irish contingency in the EU) must appreciate this from evidence in her country!

    As a country Ireland is currently suffering from part of this issue in the way that various companies that have vied to gain acceptance there are being harried by a combination of consulting engineers and advisors who in their own positions are stymied at almost every turn and nearly all and every attempt by these innovative companies to gain a foot-hold. The platitudes given as to why mean nothing in real practice for by their actions and their positioning in auditing these issues they become the last chance for some very innovative developments that would bring major savings to the countries.

    The reasons for such approaches to these new and innovative ideas are worrying many in the field as they are invariably linked to the old-fashioned attitudes of these (consulting engineers and advisors) who resist any innovation sticking with what to them are “tried in the mud” ways and ideas with which they are familiar and to which their fees as ultimate practitioners to the industry are based. If this was not so why is it that the very consulting engineers for the waste industry in Ireland still pursue old-fashioned and out-of-date policies the use of which dates to the 1970s/80s on technologies that were developed in the 1960s or before based on burning wastes (now known as incineration)a process which the public hate and detest knowing full-well that the issue now is to turn the waste in to renewable fuels at a third or less than the cost of the former and an environmental footprint that cannot be bettered.

    But it doesn’t stop just in Ireland: it happens as much in the UK where these same old-fashioned consulting engineers and advisors rue the roost and deprive the benefits of these new and innovative technologies gaining a foot-hold for the same reason. Is it not surprising? No! And the reason is that these are the same group of consulting engineers and advisors that get away with it time and time again, they do not intend to listen and they certainly do not listen or take heed to the concerns of the Public (the Tax-Payers buyers of these products and services) for in the end these same consulting engineers and advisors are rewarded (given payment) for fees working on such programmes based upon the capital costs of the ultimate chosen project – which they have conditioned their ultimate Clients – to choose. Why change to newer programmes that may cost a third or less of the capital costs (of say) the Dublin incineration facility – currently estimated at €400+ million for which your fees are 8% and €32 million when the alternative budgeted at €150/160 million will reduce those to €13 million. ((This ignores the already spent fees of €50 million spent by the Corporation with the same advisers for the works that were based upon the original estimate of fees of €10 million for the preparatory works a fee basis that already flouts the EC rules on procurement.))

    Why is it therefore that in Sweden Finland and other countries in that part of Europe give credence to such developments like those of ST1 which are beginning to show dividends for promoting the development of biofuels from non-food sources using traditional well-understood technologies that arose in the early 1820s (hydrolysis of biomass – in both dilute and concentrated acid versions – yet developments in the Netherlands Croatia UK Greece or Ireland are held up in a melee of discussions over whether the processes work and so the sources of financial support that may be as little as €10 to 25 million are held up in abeyance whilst the massive €100s and 100s are given to huge corporations without a hope of delivering any returns to the benefit of the Tax payers in the EU.

    Look again at the developments of the ultra-thin paint-film Photo-Voltaic Cellular developments that would enable civil engineers and architects and builders to coat many of the major structures in the World (let alone the EU) with materials that could generate electricity for nothing. This innovative area is one which again is being held up by these same groups of stick-in-the-mud consulting engineers and advisors who can’t even be bothered to look at the ideas and how it would benefit the Public. Imagine building in such protective and photo-voltaic cellular paint systems that use combinations of traditional P-V technologies brought down to Nan-Particle size and they become readily applicable for application on the bridges that cross the Autobahns and Motorways, to the High Speed Rail routes across Europe, the Milau Viaduct, the Forth Rail Bridge and new buildings as well as the older ones (even the EU buildings which from time to time have to be maintained) or the many other structures we see like the faces of dams and the likes and even ships’ hulls: the application areas are beyond imagination.

    Is this a fanciful innovation too far to consider? Certainly not it is here already but it transcends a number of distinctive areas of the EU – Energy, Transport, Fuels, Environment as well as the Development area. Who then would be best to sort that one out? Surely there is only one answer here the Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn!

    There are also others here. The Virtual Computer and Key-Board we hear about being developed under private research is another. You haven’t heard much about that yet? Oh yes but you will.

    The new Ultra-Thin and Light-Weight battery that uses various new combinations of traditional alkali-earth elements like Strontium is another area where much is hinging on applied innovation funding. One supposes that much hasn’t heard about that either.

    For too long the interests in the EU seem to be those of vested interests coveted by the mega-companies rather than directed towards the innovators. Once an innovation is effected it need not be considered an innovation. Let’s go for it immediately in some of the areas refereed to here and not have it stymied right at the front. For the sake of the common good of the People let’s see this happen Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn!

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